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Hungary destroys GM corn; African Biodiversity Network:"GMO no solution to food shortages..";11 EU states want right to ban GMOs


By WcP.Watchful.Eye - Posted on 31 July 2011

Hungary attempts to secure a GM-free country

Hungary destroys illegal GM corn fields, makes distributing GMO seeds a felony

(quote)

Hungary Destroys Genetically Modified Corn Crops
Hungary has destroyed almost 1,000 acres of corn found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, which are illegal in the country, International Business Times reports. The corn was plowed under so that pollen would not contaminate other crops.

The action came in response to a new regulation introduced in March that stipulates that seeds are supposed to be checked for GMO before they can be sold to farmers. But some of the GMO seeds, manufactured by U.S. seed giants Monsanto and Pioneer, made it onto the market anyway. The Hungarian government said it will continue to test seeds despite the fact that seed sellers are obliged to make sure their products are GMO-free.

Last week the Hungarian unit of Monsanto, the largest producer of GMO seeds, appealed to the Budapest Municipal Court to suspend the resolution by the Hungarian Agriculture Office to destroy the corn, but they were turned down, according to the Budapest Times. With the growing season already underway, it's too late to sow new seeds, so this year's harvest is a total loss.

Monsanto released a statement saying it "respects Hungary's efforts to prevent the production of genetically manipulated plants on Hungarian farms. Monsanto sells only traditional, not GMO seeds to Hungary. Our seeds can only enter Hungarian markets after they were tested for GMO and found clean, in accordance with national and international laws."

The company then suggested that, rather than it provide compensation to farmers, the Hungarian government buy up the corn seeds it "thinks" are GMO-infected. "The government has not responded," Monsanto said.

That is because Hungary is not playing. Despite pressure from biotech companies and the European Union, Hungary is one of only a few EU countries that have fought successfully to keep GMO seeds from infiltrating their food supplies. Some scientists believe the seeds, which are genetically engineered to resist pesticides, pose serious health and environmental problems.

In the U.S., around 80 percent of all packaged foods contain GMOs. Around 85 percent of the corn, sugar beets, soybeans and canola in the country are grown from GMO seeds.

Last November, a California judge took the unprecedented step of ordering a crop of sugar beets grown from Monsanto seeds destroyed. District Judge Jeffrey White had previously ruled that the U.S. Agriculture Department illegally approved the biotech crop in 2005. He said the government failed to conduct a thorough environmental review before approving the crop, as required by law. The "Roundup Ready" sugar beet seedlings were dug up and destroyed. Judge White isn't playing, either.

Hungary destroys illegal GM corn fields, plans to make distributing GMO seeds a felony
Earlier in the week it was announced that every crop field in Hungary that was known to contain genetically-modified (GM) corn has been plowed under and destroyed. According to reports, GMO seeds are illegal in Hungary, and authorities have been working hard to ensure that no illegal plantings or sales of GMO seeds take place in the nation.

Hungary's deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar announced that, upon the recent discovery of roughly 1000 acres of illegal GM corn, all of these "frankencrops" were systematically destroyed. He also claimed that none of the pollen from the crops had spread, and that the government will continue to monitor seed distribution and crop plantings to ensure that no more GMOs are planted.

A new Hungarian law enacted back in March stipulates that before any new seeds are introduced into the market, they must first undergo checks to make sure they are free of GMOs. Seed traders are also required to personally verify that all of their products are free of GMOs before distributing them, especially due to the fact that GMO seeds from Monsanto and Pioneer, two large biotechnology companies, have been found unintentionally intermixed with natural seeds.

Unfortunately for many unwitting Hungarian farmers, the discovery of unknown GMOs in their fields came at a time when it was too late to replant new crops in time for this year's harvest. And any potential compensation paid by Monsanto or Pioneer as a result of the damages will likely go to the creditors of the seed company that provided them, which is now under liquidation.

It was announced shortly just days after these events that the Hungarian government plans to make distributing GMO seeds a felony. Since as many as 6,200 acres of crop land may have already been contaminated by the unintentional or careless planting of GMO seeds, authorities are cracking down as best they know how to keep Hungary GMO-free.

Africa not place for GMOs: biodiversity network
The African Biodiversity Network says the continent is not a place for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and has solutions to hunger and climate change problems, the Post of Zambia reported on Wednesday.

There have been calls in Zambia for the government to open debate on GMOs following Kenya's introduction of GMO maize. Zambian banned GMOs in 2002 and then president Levy Mwanawasa refused to accept GMO maize at the height of a food crisis. "Everything that genetic engineering has claimed to offer can readily be achieved through safer methods such as non-GM breeding, intercropping and creative innovation. We do not believe that top- down technological solutions will solve the many challenges that Kenyan farmers face. This one-size-fits all solution cannot attend to our varied needs," Anne Maine, the organization's coordinator was quoted as saying by the paper in an email from Kenya.

She said genetically engineered foods were not a solution to the food shortages and climate change problems in Africa, adding that public research institutions in Africa should shift focus back to farmers needs rather than supporting agribusiness, which seeks to colonize the food and seed chain. Maina explained that farmers and consumers in Kenya had rejected GM crops because the patented seeds makes seed-saving illegal.

"We believe that the patenting of seed is deeply unethical and dangerous; it undermines farmers' rights to save seeds and will make us wholly dependent on corporations in the future. 80 per cent of Africa's small-scale farmers depend on seed saving, so patented crops present a threat to their food security and way of life especially now with the challenges of climate change," she added.

Maina said she did not believe that bio-technology would solve the many challenges that farmers in Africa were facing. "..Instead, we call for collaboration between farmers, scientists and government to ensure that we produce healthy and plentiful food. We have clearly seen how farmers who grow a diversity of crops using organic farming techniques become much more food secure than on conventional or GM varieties, where expensive seeds and chemicals must be purchased each season," she added.

According to her, research on GMOs was already costing Africa huge sums of money which could go into supporting farmers revive and develop a huge diversity of locally-adapted, drought-tolerance, and pest-resistance crop varieties.

The African Biodiversity Network is a charitable organization that was formed in response to growing concern about threatened biodiversity and community livelihood in Africa -- mainly due to the effects of industrial revolution.

It has partners in Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, according to the Post.

Eleven EU Member States Want Right to Ban GMOs
BRUSSELS, June 21, 2009 (Reuters) - Eleven European Union countries will call next week for the right to opt-outs for growing genetically modified (GM) crops, to cut through complex EU decision-making and end years of stalemate on biotech policy.

The suggestion, to be floated at a meeting of EU environment ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday, would be for governments to restrict cultivation of specific GM crop types if they saw fit. Even though there will be no decisions taken, the paper authored by the 11 countries is certain to spark a debate on Europe's GM policy. The European Commission, the EU's executive, has already started a review of the two main biotech approvals laws: on cultivation, and imports of GM food and feed products.

The paper was co-written by Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia and the Netherlands. "Given the unsatisfactory situation and the negative attitude towards GMOs of large parts of the population in many member states, time has come to find a new approach to deal with the authorisation and use of GMOs in agriculture," it said. "The legally soundest solution we envisage is a set of minor amendments of relevant EU legislation, which should introduce the right of an individual member state to restrict or prohibit indefinitely the cultivation of authorised GMOs on its territory," said the paper, obtained by Reuters.

It would be straightforward to formulate such an 'opt-out' in legal terms and integrate into existing EU laws, it said.

NATIONAL SELF-DETERMINATION

The 11 countries also suggested drawing up a list of socio-economic criteria that national governments could use to "prohibit or regulate" GM crop cultivation on their entire territory, or certain defined areas of it.

But before then, EU environment ministers should consider options which "could enable national self-determination for cultivation, without changing the general authorisation procedure for placing GMOs and products thereof on the market."

Two Countries Ban Genetically Modified Crops
The European Union currently only grows one GM crop, or genetically modified crop. That particular crop happens to be corn, specifically referred to as MON 810. However, some countries in the European Union are not fond of the idea of growing genetically modified crops and had put bans on them.

Austria and Hungary have national bans on growing any genetically modified crops even though only one particular crop is widely used in the European Union. The World Trade Organization, as urged by the United States, Argentina and Canada, ruled in 2006 that banning genetically modified foods was against trade rules. However, Austria and Hungary went ahead with their bans regardless.

As of Monday, the European Union ruled 20 to 4 that the bans of Austria and Hungary would stand. Twenty nations were in favor of Austria and Hungary’s bans while four were against. The four nations against included: Britain, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands.

The European Commission, which is the EU’s executive sector, feels the bans should be lifted to keep animal feed costs down. The European Commission has attempted to remove the ban on genetically modified crops in these countries before, three times in Austria and two times in Hungary.

Genetically modified crops are a concern to many, especially those concerned about health and environmental issues. Data is not clear regarding health issues that could result from the continual consumption of GM foods. Also, many are concerned with the GM crops infiltrating natural environments and their impact on ecosystems. A piece was recently done on GM crops here.

GM crops: EU parliament backs national bans
[6 July 2011] Euro MPs have voted to give EU member states more flexibility to restrict or ban genetically modified crops on environmental or health grounds. The draft legislation, still to be discussed by EU governments, would enable countries to go beyond the EU-wide mechanism for regulating GM crops. Arguments about the safety of GM foods continue in many of the EU's 27 states.

The EU Commission had proposed that the EU should decide on approvals or bans on environmental or health grounds. Currently a type of maize called MON 810 is the only GM food cultivated commercially in the EU. But not everywhere - it is banned in six EU states: Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg.

A report approved by MEPs on Tuesday says member states "may adopt measures restricting or prohibiting the cultivation of all or particular GMOs [genetically modified organisms], in all or part of their territory, on the basis of grounds relating to the public interest. "Those measures may be based on grounds relating to environmental or other legitimate factors such as socio-economic impacts."

The report is an amendment to a European Commission proposal for new legislation on GMOs. The MEPs' report argued that granting more flexibility to member states on the issue would not undermine the EU-level assessments.

The report also called for a firmer legal basis to ensure that "the polluter pays for unintended effects or damage that might occur due to the deliberate release or the placing on the market of GMOs".

Apart from MON 810, a GM type of potato called Amflora has also been authorised in the EU, but it is harvested for industrial starch. Supporters of GM crops argue that they deliver higher yields and resistance to pests, requiring less fertiliser and pesticides. Opponents say more scientific data is needed, arguing that their long-term genetic impact on humans and wildlife could be harmful.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth Europe welcomed the MEPs' vote, calling it "a clear signal from MEPs that they are on the side of the majority of European citizens who oppose GM crops".

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of Flickr/stevendepolo and foodfreedom.wordpress.com

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