TWO GM CROPS APPROVED FOR IMPORT IN THE EU
Two genetically modified (GM) crops have received endorsements to be approved for import in the European Union. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has deemed the herbicide tolerant GM soybean Mon87708 x Mon89788 and the herbicide tolerant GM maize NK603 x T25 safe for food or feed use. In its scientific opinion, EFSA said that both crops are as safe as their non-GM comparators and non-GM conventional maize varieties with respect to potential effects on human and animal health and the environment in the context of its scope.
AG COMMITTEE OPPOSES NATIONAL BANS ON GM IMPORTS
The agriculture committee has rejected the Commission’s draft law that would give member states the power to restrict or prohibit the use of EU-approved GM food or feed on their territory. It fears that arbitrary national bans could distort competition on the EU’s single market and jeopardise the Union’s food production sectors which are heavily dependent on imports of GM feed. The agriculture committee’s opinion, adopted by 28 votes in favour to eight against, with six abstentions, will now be scrutinised by the environment committee, which has the lead on this file, before the Parliament as a whole votes on the matter. “This vote in the agriculture committee sends a clear message: the Commission’s proposal to allow member states to decide whether or not to restrict or ban the use of GM food and feed on their territory must be rejected. We have not been building the EU’s single market to let arbitrary political decisions distort it completely,” said the draftsman of the opinion, Albert Dess. “The Commission’s approach is completely unrealistic. We have many sectors in the EU that rely to a great extent on imports of GM feed and would not be able to survive if it is banned. If we allowed this, then all animal food production in the EU would be at stake, which could make us much more dependent on food imports from third countries that do not necessarily respect our high production standards. And we certainly want to avoid this.”
GERMAINS RECEIVES SECOND ESTA ACCREDITATION
Germains Seed Technology in Aalten, Netherlands, has received accreditation from the European Seed Treatment Assurance scheme (ESTA). ESTA sets a standard for quality assurance to ensure seed treatment activities and seed treated with Plant Protection Products, meet industry requirements as they evolve. Following accreditation at Germains King’s Lynn UK site in December 2013, Germains Seed Technology now prides itself on having two sites that are accredited by ESTA. “It is a priority for Germains to be at the forefront of good practice. Germains was the first seed treatment plant to achieve the ESTA standard in the UK,” said Veronique Heyes, EU regulatory manager at Germains. “Our journey to align our European sites is progressing well, and I am delighted that our production facility in the Netherlands has now been received into the ESTA family. We will now focus plans for our Spanish facility to complete its journey to ESTA accreditation and ensure ESTA accreditation across all production facilities in Europe.” ESTA was devised by the European Seed Association (ESA) in response to the EU Directive (2010/21/EU) which requires insecticidal seed treatments to ‘only be performed in professional seed treatment facilities.’
SCIENTISTS Object To Scotland’s BAN OF GM CROPS
Twenty-eight scientific organisations have voiced their concern about the recent banning of GM crops in Scotland, and submitted a letter to Richard Lochhead, the Scottish cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food, and environment. In early August 2015, Lochhead announced that he would not allow the planting of insect resistant corn, the only GM crop approved for planting in the EU. He also said that he would not allow the use of six other GM crops that are being assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In his statement, he mentioned that the reason for the ban was to “protect and further enhance our clean, green status.” The scientific organisations, including the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Society of Plant Breeders, have asked for a meeting with Lochhead to talk about scientific evidence on GM crops. Lochhead has agreed to meet with the scientists and assured them that the ban will not affect the state of current research in Scotland.
U.S. APPROVAL FOR SYNGENTA FUNGICIDE
Syngenta has announced that its breakthrough SDHI fungicide Solatenol has received registration from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. First significant sales in the U.S. are expected in the 2016 season. Solatenol has already been launched in Latin America as Elatus, offering growers unrivaled performance against soybean rust, a devastating disease which can significantly impact yields. In the U.S., products containing Solatenol will be available for a wide range of crops including corn, soybean, wheat, peanuts, potatoes and vegetables. “U.S. growers can expect a step change in disease control from our range of Solatenol products. These valuable new tools demonstrate our commitment to producing sustainable innovations that help growers combat diseases while maximising their returns,” said Syngenta COO, Davor Pisk. Regulatory approvals are pending in several markets, including the EU.
BASF AND EMBRAPA LAUNCH PRODUCTION SYSTEM
BASF and Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa) have launched the Cultivance Production System, a milestone for Brazilian science, as it contains the first genetically modified soybean fully developed in Brazil. The technology was approved by the European Union, a major import market, at the end of the first half of this year. This has made it possible to start production of seeds for making the system available to the market. As a result of the partnership between BASF and Embrapa that stretches back more than 10 years, the Cultivance Production System combines four genetically modified soybean cultivars with considerable genetic potential and the use of Soyvance Pré, a broad-spectrum herbicide for controlling large leaf and grass weeds, thereby creating a new production system. Starting in 2016, new cultivars should be launched that will expand cultivation areas to meet the demand of farmers who would like to use the new system to manage weeds. The two companies invested US$33 million into developing the system, including — along with the herbicide — genetic improvement, scientific studies conducted in laboratories to confirm food safety of the new soybean and field studies to support the worldwide registration process. BASF and Embrapa submitted all the risk analyses required under Brazilian law for the deregulation of Cultivance soybeans to the National Technical Commission for Biosafety (CTNBio) in January 2009. After an analysis and review period, CTNBio released Cultivance soybeans for marketing in December 2009, stating that their use did not constitute a risk to human or animal health or to the environment. Since that time, the approval process for the technology has been ongoing in Brazilian soy importing regions, including the United States, China, Japan, and the European Union.
KENYAN FARMERS SUPPORT GOVERNMENT TO LIFT BAN ON BIOTECH CROPS
Farmers from south and north Rift counties of Kenya have voiced their support for the government’s plan to lift the ban on GM food importation. “We ask the government to fast-track the lifting of the ban and make the technology available for us, as this will lead to job creation for our young people,” they said. Kericho County Governor and professor Paul Chepkwony said, “This county is ready to embrace agri-biotechnology and urged for more sensitization activities to ensure that farmers can make informed choices. Africa is faced with a lot of challenges to food security and genetic engineering is a sure way out for them.”
SCIENTISTS ASK FOR DEREGULATION OF BT EGGPLANT IN INDIA
Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium and Chaudhary Charan Singh University in India have published an article in Nature Biotechnology making a case for a return to science-based regulation of GM crops and a concerted effort to counter the misinformation widely promulgated by activists intent on demonizing GM crops. The researchers note the far-reaching repercussions that the moratorium on Bt Brinjal has had on the use of GM crops in India. The article features the difficult conditions under which Bt eggplant (Bt brinjal) was developed and field tested indigenously, encountered several regulatory roadblocks, culminating in a moratorium on its commercial use by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests on February 9, 2010.
GM FOODS IN CHINA SAFE, ACCORDING TO MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE
The Ministry of Agriculture of China has issued a statement saying that all certified genetically modified foods that are sold on the Chinese market are safe. China has established a safety supervision system that covers the complete chain of GM products, including research, production and trading, according to the ministry. The ministry has stated that it will work with other departments to improve legislation of GM products and their testing technologies to ensure their safety. “Internationally, there is a conclusion on the safety of GM foods, that is, that all GM foods that have passed safety evaluation and been certified are safe,” the ministry said. “The conclusion by the World Health Organization is that no health damage has been seen in any people worldwide who have consumed GM foods that have been approved by authorities.”