Agriculture

Modern agriculture is actively under threat – we need to save it

Mycotoxins represent an active and palpable threat to the health of consumers, with millions affected particularly in developing nations. The open hostility towards certain crop protection measures has emphasised this problem, as fungicides are coming under fire. The scientific method and consumer health should be the metrics of public agricultural policy.

We’ve come a long way from how our ancestors produced and prepared food.

Mechanisation, agricultural intensification, synthetic fertilisers, and even drones are now part of modern farming. This allows us to feed billions on a daily basis.

But with the emergence of the mass-production of food came its opponents, often environmentalists unhappy with resource use, animal use, or consumerism. Picture traveling back in time and explaining to people that there will be a world in which average people can actually afford fresh vegetables and refrigerated meat, which is available at all times but there are simultaneously people who oppose this immense progress and want to deprive others of its wonders.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being nostalgic. Even today, there are farming initiatives that promote and practice “peasant farming”, and live off their own production in a commune. No harm done, the world economy and developing nations will remain untouched by this first-world luxury.

That said, environmentalists have gone far beyond the realm of romanticising the old days: they have set their eyes on implementing it by force, if necessary through distorting reality.

A vast network of organisations, including known players such as Greenpeace, are throwing a myriad of unscientific publications at the wall in different European countries, in the attempt to find out what sticks. Their latest target is fungicides.

Fungicides are used to fight fungus spores, which if carried from the outside of the plant to their inside, are dangerous to human health. These molds produce mycotoxins, which are toxic metabolites.

Mycotoxins are divided into subcategories, namely aflatoxins, ochratoxin A (OTA), fumonisins (FUM), zearalenone (ZEN), and deoxynivalenol (DON – also known as vomitoxin), which can all be ingested through eating contaminated food, including dairy products (as infected animals can carry it into milk, eggs, or meat).

The most dangerous kinds are aflatoxins, which can affect corn, wheat, rice, soybeans, peanuts, and tree nuts, and can cause cancer. Most disconcertingly, up to 28% of all liver cancer can be attributed to aflatoxins, and its immunosuppressant features leave humans weakened against other diseases.

In Africa, this is a deadly epidemic. Aflatoxin exposure is more deadly than exposure to malaria or tuberculosis, with 40% of all liver cancers in Africa being related to it. Mycotoxin contamination can occur through inadequate food storage, but more importantly it occurs in absence of the correct crop protection measures, including chemicals.

As a result of mycotoxins, food products are prevented from entering Europe, and Africa loses millions in unusable food every year.

However, this is not only an issue in Africa. According to 2017 data, Europe is also at severe risk of mycotoxin contamination. A 10-year survey conducted by the BIOMIN research centre in Austria found that approximately 20% of Central European grain feed and almost 12% of Southern Europe’s grain feed exceeded EU regulatory limits.

In 2013, France requested to have its maize samples exempted from EU regulation on mycotoxins, because its harvest would have been largely unusable. The 2018 data showed 6% of field and 15% of French silo maize samples were contaminated with aflatoxins.

The European Union, as well as national food safety authorities, have authorised a dozen of SDHI fungicides, which fight mycotoxins, and have been re-confirmed as safe as recently as last year.

On the other side of the argument, environmentalists rely on the results presented by a handful of French researchers, presented in 2018 in a non-peer reviewed publication by the name of bioRxiv. Their claims: SDHI fungicides can cause rare cancers and neurological impairments, and the current toxicological reports are inaccurate.

The French Authority for Food Safety (ANSES) released a report which debunked those claims. The agency found no basis for the publication’s claims, explaining that SDHIs are rapidly metabolised and eliminated from the body and that despite these fungicides having been on the market for a long time, that no scientific evidence points towards adverse effects to human health or the environment.

Despite attacks on the integrity of ANSES (which had offered both dialogue and publishing all of its SDHI data available for review), these activists have not presented further evidence for their theory. This hasn’t prevented environmentalist groups from demanding the ban of all fungicides, and an extreme pivot to a form of agriculture that shuns any and all biotechnology.

If they prove successful in banning SDHIs in France, these same activists would take their quest to the next level: the European Union. A long battle would ensue over the future of conventional agriculture, and there is no doubt that facts will be distorted and bogus science will rise to the surface.

But we cannot let it go that far. Food security and the health of consumers are at stake. If the argument is that genetic engineering provides cheaper and better ways to fight insects and mycotoxins, then that is a valid scientific argument that ought to be supported.

However, environmentalists have shown little openness to new breeding technologies, and in turn endorse “agroecology”, or peasant farming. Our ancestors would be rightfully horrified at the thought of that happening. We need to make reasoned arguments in favour of the scientific method to prevent that from happening. It’s the only way we can keep the future from becoming the past.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

La sostenibilidad y la innovación deberían ir de la mano en la UE

En las últimas dos décadas, Europa ha decidido seguir su propio camino en las políticas agrícolas. Si bien tanto América del Norte como América del Sur, y también Japón se han movido a una agricultura moderna aún más impulsada por la tecnología, Europa ha retrocedido y sigue prohibiendo cada vez más avances y métodos científicamente probados en la agricultura. En conversaciones comerciales recientes, los principales diplomáticos estadounidenses se han burlado repetidamente del marco regulatorio en la UE como anacrónico.

«Debemos eliminar las restricciones a la adopción de nuevos enfoques y tecnologías innovadores, incluidas restricciones regulatorias excesivamente onerosas e innecesarias, y vamos a decir la verdad a nuestros ciudadanos sobre tecnología, productividad y seguridad».

Esas fueron las palabras del Secretario de Agricultura de los Estados Unidos, Sonny Perdue en un artículo de opinión publicado en Euractiv en febrero. De manera un poco menos diplomática, el embajador de Estados Unidos en el Reino Unido, Woody Wilson, acuñó el enfoque de la UE «Museo de la Agricultura». en un artículo de opinión para The Telegraph solo este marzo.

Tanto Perdue como Wilson sostienen que las restricciones de la Unión Europea a la tecnología agrícola moderna no son sostenibles y limitan severamente los futuros acuerdos comerciales.

Juzgar si son correctos o no no está relacionado con cuánto amas u odias a los Estados Unidos, sino cuánto amas u odias la estabilidad de los precios de los alimentos. Nosotros, los europeos, podemos juzgar esto nosotros mismos.

Vamos a evaluar la situación tal como es. Tanto la agricultura convencional como la orgánica se ocupan de las plagas de las que deben deshacerse para no poner en peligro la seguridad alimentaria y la estabilidad de precios para los consumidores. Ambos requieren productos químicos como parte de sus herramientas de protección de cultivos.

Como muestra África, las plagas de langostas pueden ser devastadoras para la seguridad alimentaria, y la ciencia climática nos permite detectar que ciertas plagas vendrán de lugares distantes a nuestras costas más temprano que tarde, lo que hace que los insecticidas sean necesarios. Para evitar hongos y micotoxinas mortales, utilizamos fungicidas.

Políticamente, estas herramientas de protección de cultivos químicos no son populares, ya que una cantidad cada vez mayor de ambientalistas empuja a los políticos a prohibirlas. Esto ha dejado el espectro político de izquierda vs. derecha y se distribuye equitativamente en ambos lados.

Desafortunadamente, si las autoridades de seguridad alimentaria nacionales e internacionales han demostrado que estos productos químicos son seguros o no, en el contexto de la política moderna posterior a la verdad, es muy poco.

Lo que parece importar es que las herramientas modernas de protección de cultivos están etiquetadas como insostenibles. Sin embargo, la sostenibilidad no está suficientemente definida y, por lo tanto, ha servido como una excusa para envalentonar los conceptos erróneos existentes sobre la agricultura.

En todo caso, la sostenibilidad debe basarse en una agricultura moderna e innovadora que satisfaga las necesidades del medio ambiente, la seguridad alimentaria, la seguridad alimentaria y los precios competitivos para los consumidores. Esas herramientas están disponibles para nosotros hoy.

A través de la ingeniería genética, los científicos han encontrado una manera de reducir el uso de productos tradicionales de protección de cultivos, al tiempo que aumentan el rendimiento de los cultivos. Sin embargo, una vez más, una sospecha política hacia la innovación agro-tecnológica impide el camino a seguir, en este caso a través de la directiva de OGM de 2001, que prácticamente prohíbe toda la ingeniería genética con el propósito de los cultivos.

El cambio climático altera la forma en que producimos alimentos, lo queramos o no. Las enfermedades raras y no tan raras nos obligan a adaptar nuestro suministro de alimentos a los consumidores que lo necesitan. Las modificaciones genéticas específicas nos permiten superar mutaciones aleatorias del pasado y desarrollar cambios precisos en el campo de los alimentos.

Estados Unidos, junto con Israel, Japón, Argentina y Brasil, están liderando el mundo con reglas permisivas para la edición de genes. Esta nueva tecnología puede mejorar la esperanza de vida, la seguridad alimentaria y los precios de los alimentos para todos los consumidores. Las reglas de la UE, en comparación, tienen 20 años y no están enraizadas en la ciencia, ya que una cantidad cada vez mayor de científicos ahora explicando.

¿Los estadounidenses quieren competir con los agricultores europeos y vender cantidades crecientes de alimentos en este continente?

Esto no solo es obviamente el caso, sino que también es mutuo. Si invertimos tanto tiempo como lo hacemos en demonizar los productos estadounidenses aquí para promover los productos europeos en el extranjero, entonces serían nuestros agricultores expandiéndose masivamente en el mercado estadounidense con productos superiores. En el escenario, los consumidores mantienen sus elecciones de alimentos, y los minoristas y productores deben estar obligados a etiquetar los orígenes de los alimentos.

Sobre todo, la modificación de nuestras normas sobre nuevas tecnologías de mejoramiento genético (o edición de genes) debe hacerse en interés de los consumidores europeos más que en el de los exportadores estadounidenses. Europa debería liderar el camino hacia la innovación agrícola y dar lecciones para la innovación, no tomarlas de los Estados Unidos. En interés de los consumidores europeos, debemos permitir la innovación y luego ser un líder mundial en ello.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

La durabilité et l’innovation devraient aller de pair dans l’UE

Au cours des deux dernières décennies, l’Europe a décidé de suivre sa propre voie dans les politiques agricoles. Alors que l’Amérique du Nord et du Sud, ainsi que le Japon sont passés à une agriculture moderne encore plus axée sur la technologie, l’Europe a reculé et continue d’interdire de plus en plus de progrès et de méthodes scientifiquement prouvés dans l’agriculture. Lors de récentes négociations commerciales, les meilleurs diplomates américains se sont moqués à plusieurs reprises du cadre réglementaire de l’UE comme anachronique.

«Nous devons lever les obstacles à l’adoption de nouvelles approches et technologies innovantes, y compris des restrictions réglementaires excessivement lourdes et inutiles, et vouloir dire la vérité à nos citoyens sur la technologie, la productivité et la sécurité.»

Ce sont les mots du secrétaire américain à l’Agriculture Sonny Perdue dans un éditorial publié sur Euractiv en février. De façon un peu moins diplomatique, l’ambassadeur des États-Unis au Royaume-Uni, Woody Wilson, a inventé l’approche de l’UE « Museum of Agriculture » dans un éditorial pour The Telegraph en mars dernier.

Tant Perdue que Wilson soutiennent que les restrictions imposées par l’Union européenne aux technologies agricoles modernes ne sont pas durables et limitent gravement les futurs accords commerciaux.

Juger s’ils sont corrects ou non n’est pas lié à combien vous aimez ou détestez les États-Unis, mais à quel point vous aimez ou détestez la stabilité des prix des aliments. Nous, Européens, pouvons nous-mêmes en juger.

Évaluons la situation telle qu’elle est. L’agriculture conventionnelle et biologique traite des ravageurs dont ils doivent se débarrasser afin de ne pas compromettre la sécurité alimentaire et la stabilité des prix pour les consommateurs. Les deux nécessitent des produits chimiques dans le cadre de leurs outils de protection des cultures.

Comme le montre l’Afrique, les fléaux acridiens peuvent être dévastateurs pour la sécurité alimentaire, et la science du climat nous permet de détecter que certains ravageurs viendront de lieux éloignés sur nos côtes plus tôt que tard, rendant les insecticides nécessaires. Afin d’éviter les champignons et les mycotoxines mortelles, nous utilisons des fongicides.

Politiquement, ces outils chimiques de protection des cultures ne sont pas populaires, car des quantités croissantes d’écologistes poussent les politiciens à les interdire. Cela a laissé le spectre politique de gauche contre droite et est également réparti des deux côtés.

Malheureusement, la question de savoir si ces produits chimiques se sont révélés sûrs ou non par les autorités nationales et internationales de sécurité sanitaire des aliments – dans le contexte de la politique post-vérité moderne – très peu.

Ce qui semble avoir de l’importance, c’est que les outils modernes de protection des cultures sont étiquetés comme non durables. Cependant, la durabilité est insuffisamment définie et a donc servi d’excuse pour enhardir les idées fausses existantes sur l’agriculture.

Au contraire, la durabilité devrait être basée sur une agriculture moderne et innovante qui répond aux besoins de l’environnement, de la sécurité alimentaire, de la sécurité alimentaire et des prix compétitifs pour les consommateurs. Ces outils sont à notre disposition aujourd’hui.

Grâce au génie génétique, les scientifiques ont trouvé un moyen de réduire l’utilisation des produits traditionnels de protection des cultures, tout en augmentant le rendement des cultures. Encore une fois, une suspicion politique à l’égard de l’innovation agro-technologique empêche la voie à suivre, en l’occurrence à travers la directive OGM de 2001, qui interdit pratiquement tout génie génétique à des fins de cultures.

Le changement climatique modifie la façon dont nous produisons les aliments, que nous le voulions ou non. Les maladies rares et moins rares nous obligent à adapter notre offre alimentaire aux consommateurs qui en ont besoin. Des modifications génétiques spécifiques nous permettent de surmonter des mutations aléatoires du passé et de développer des changements précis dans le domaine de l’alimentation.

Les États-Unis, avec Israël, le Japon, l’Argentine et le Brésil, sont en tête du monde avec des règles permissives pour l’édition de gènes. Cette nouvelle technologie peut améliorer l’espérance de vie, la sécurité alimentaire et les prix des aliments pour tous les consommateurs. Les règles de l’UE, en comparaison, ont 20 ans et ne sont pas enracinées dans la science, comme l’expliquent de plus en plus de scientifiques.

Les Américains veulent-ils rivaliser avec les agriculteurs européens et vendre des quantités croissantes de nourriture sur ce continent?

Ce n’est pas seulement évidemment le cas, mais c’est aussi réciproque. Si nous investissions autant de temps que nous le faisons dans la diabolisation des produits américains ici pour promouvoir les produits européens à l’étranger, alors nos agriculteurs se développeraient massivement sur le marché américain avec des produits de qualité supérieure. Dans le scénario, les consommateurs conservent leurs choix d’aliments et les détaillants et les producteurs doivent être tenus d’étiqueter l’origine des aliments.

Surtout, la modification de nos règles en matière de nouvelles technologies de sélection (ou d’édition de gènes) doit se faire dans l’intérêt des consommateurs européens plus que dans celui des exportateurs américains. L’Europe devrait montrer la voie en matière d’innovation agricole et donner des leçons pour l’innovation, et non les prendre aux États-Unis. Dans l’intérêt des consommateurs européens, nous devons permettre l’innovation, puis devenir un leader mondial dans ce domaine.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Sustainability and innovation should go hand in hand in the EU

In the last two decades, Europe has decided to go its own way in agricultural policies. While both North and South America, and also Japan have moved to even more technology-driven modern agriculture, Europe has gone backwards and keeps banning more and more scientifically proven advances and methods in agriculture. In recent trade talks, top American diplomats have repeatedly mocked the regulatory framework in the EU as anachronistic.

“We must remove constraints to the adoption of innovative new approaches and technologies, including overly burdensome and unnecessary regulatory restrictions, and will to speak truth to our citizens about technology, productivity and safety.”

Those were the words of U.S Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in an op-ed published on Euractiv in February. In a slightly less diplomatic fashion, the U.S ambassador to the United Kingdom, Woody Wilson, coined the EU’s approach “Museum of Agriculture” in an op-ed for The Telegraph just this March.

Both Perdue and Wilson argue that the European Union’s restrictions on modern agricultural technology are not sustainable, and severely limit future trade deals.

To judge whether they are correct or not is not related to how much you love or hate the United States, but how much you love or hate food price stability. We Europeans can be the judge of this ourselves.

Let’s assess the situation as it is. Both conventional and organic agriculture deal with pests they need to get rid of in order not to jeopardise food security and price stability for consumers. Both require chemicals as part of their crop protection tools.

As Africa shows, locust plagues can be devastating for food security, and climate science enables us to detect that certain pests will come from distant places to our shores sooner than later, making insecticides necessary. In order to avoid fungus and deadly mycotoxins, we use fungicides.

Politically, these chemical crop protection tools are not popular, as increasing amounts of environmentalists push politicians to ban them. This has left the political spectrum of left vs. right and is equally distributed on both sides.

Unfortunately, whether or not these chemicals have been shown to be safe by national and international food safety authorities matters – in the context of modern post-truth politics – very little.

What does seem to matter is that modern crop protection tools are labelled as being unsustainable. However, sustainability is insufficiently defined, and has thus served as an excuse to embolden existing misconceptions about agriculture.

If anything, sustainability should be based on modern and innovative agriculture that caters to the need of the environment, food safety, food security, and competitive prices for consumers. Those tools are available to us today.

Through genetic engineering, scientists have found a way to reduce the use of traditional crop protection products, while increasing crop yield. Yet once again, a political suspicion towards agro-tech innovation bars the way forward, in this case through the 2001 GMO directive, which practically bans all genetic engineering for the purpose of crops.

Climate change alters the way we produce food whether we want it or not. Rare and not so rare diseases make it necessary for us to adapt our food supply to consumers who need it. Specific genetic modifications allow us to overcome random mutations of the past, and develop precise changes in the field of food.

The United States, together with Israel, Japan, Argentina, and Brazil, are leading the world with permissive rules for gene-editing. This novel technology can improve life expectancy, food security, and food prices for all consumers. The EU’s rules, by comparison, are 20 years old and not rooted in science, as an increasing amount of scientists are now explaining.

Do the Americans want to compete with European farmers and sell increasing amounts of food on this continent?

This is not only obviously the case, but it is also mutual. If we invested as much time as we do on demonising American products here into promoting European products abroad, then it would be our farmers massively expanding into the American market with superior produce. In the scenario, consumers keep their choices of food, and retailers and producers need to be required to label the origins of food.

Most of all, altering our rules on new breeding technologies (or gene editing) ought to be done in the interest of European consumers more than in those of American exporters. Europe should lead the way on agricultural innovation and give lessons for innovation, not take them from the United States. In the interests of European consumers, we should allow for innovation, and then be a global leader in it.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Neue Meta-Studie: „Insekten-Apokalypse findet nicht statt”

Eine neue Studie zeigt zwar einen Rückgang der Landinsekten, gleichzeitig aber eine Zunahme der Süßwasserinsekten. Klimawandel und Landwirtschaft beeinflussten dies nicht. Streit ist vorprogrammiert.

Schmetterling

Eine neue Meta-Analyse zu Insektenpopulationen dürfte die Diskussion um das Insektensterben wieder anheizen. Der Analyst Bill Wirtz von der Firma “Consumer Choice Center” aus Brüssel hat nach eigener Aussage die bisher größte und umfassendste Auswertung von Insektenstudien und Zählungen durchgeführt, die es bislang gab.

Seine Ergebnisse würden einige „der Missverständnisse zum vermeintlichen Artensterben der letzten Jahre“ korrigieren, wie der Senior Policy Analyst am Freitag in einer Presseinformation mitteilte. Er hoffe, dass die Diskussion wieder in eine weniger sensationsgetriebene Gangart rücken wird.

“Diese Analyse von 166 Langzeitstudien, die zwischen 1925 und 2018 an 1.676 Standorten auf der ganzen Welt durchgeführt wurden, gibt den vorhandenen Studien zu diesem Thema endlich die nötige Nuancierung. Seit Jahren wurden weniger tiefgreifende Forschungsergebnisse herangezogen, die behaupten, dass wir es mit einem Insektenrückgang apokalyptischen Ausmaßes zu tun haben. Wir wissen jetzt, dass dies nicht zutreffend war”, sagt Wirtz.

Seiner Aussage nach hat diese Studie einen Rückgang der Insektenpopulation festgestellt. Dies sei sicherlich ein Grund für weitere Untersuchungen, doch die Zahlen zeigten, dass der Effekt ungefähr sechsmal geringer sei als in früheren Studien. Ein Teil des Rückgangs der Landinsekten werde durch eine Zunahme von Süßwasserinsekten wie Mücken und Eintagsfliegen ausgeglichen, erklärte er weiter.

Während in früheren Studien der Verursacher im Klimawandel und in der modernen Landwirtschaft gesehen wurde, habe diese Meta-Analyse keinen klaren Zusammenhang zwischen Klimawandel und Insektenpopulationen gefunden, so Wirtz weiter. „Was Landwirtschaft betrifft, so zeigt diese Studie, dass der Anbau von Nutzpflanzen tatsächlich den Insektenpopulationen zugute gekommen ist. Die Forscher haben gezeigt, dass die Zerstörung des Lebensraums durch die Urbanisierung zum Rückgang der terrestrischen Insektenpopulationen geführt hat.“

“Eine Reihe von Medien haben frühere Studien genutzt, um auffällige Schlagzeilen zu schreiben. In dem Bemühen, den Nachrichtenkonsumenten ein vollständiges Bild zu vermitteln, hoffe ich, dass diese Medien jetzt über diese neuen Erkenntnisse berichten”, so Wirtz abschließend.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Non, l’Afrique n’est pas épargnée!

OPINION. Le virus ailé que représente l’invasion actuelle de criquets menace de réduire à néant toutes les récoltes de la Corne de l’Afrique. Il faut réagir de toute urgence, en se souvenant que chimie et technologie font aussi partie du génie humain, rappelle notre chroniqueur

L’hémisphère Sud, et en particulier l’Afrique, semble en grande partie épargné par la pandémie de Covid-19 qui préoccupe toute l’Asie et l’Occident. Mais pendant que nous focalisons notre attention sur cette maladie, nous détournons notre regard d’un désastre sans doute pire encore, qui ravage le continent africain.

A l’heure actuelle, des dizaines de milliers d’hectares de cultures et de plantations sont ruinés par la plus grande invasion de criquets de ces vingt-cinq dernières années. En raison d’un climat automnal favorable, ces insectes ont proliféré et leur nombre pourrait encore croître d’ici à juin.

Neuf Etats africains s’essaient aujourd’hui à maîtriser la propagation de ce virus ailé qui se répand à une vitesse effarante. Maïs, millet, sorgho, herbes et feuilles: tout y passe!

Des nuages de criquets, parfois de la taille de petits pays comme le Luxembourg, se déplacent sur des kilomètres ravageant tout sur leur passage et ne laissant derrière eux qu’une terre stérile. Ces régions pauvres, qui souffrent régulièrement de la famine, se retrouvent ainsi face à une future crise alimentaire de grande ampleur.

Depuis le début de cette invasion, les gouvernements de ces pays ont intensifié les mesures de contrôle qui comprennent notamment une utilisation rapide de pesticides dans toutes les zones touchées, pulvérisés à l’aide de pompes manuelles et motorisées. Ces Etats sont aujourd’hui appuyés par les Nations unies, qui demandent une aide urgente pour organiser rapidement une pulvérisation aérienne de grande ampleur avant la saison des plantations.

L’objectif est principalement d’empêcher l’éclosion des œufs des criquets par l’utilisation de fénitrothion et de malathion, des insecticides organophosphorés couramment utilisés pour lutter contre les moustiques et les insectes frugivores. En effet, si une intervention n’est pas faite rapidement, la plaie des criquets pourrait s’amplifier et réduire à néant les terres agricoles restantes de la Corne de l’Afrique.

Pandémie et prolifération des criquets: face à ces catastrophes d’ampleur biblique, l’Humanité se retrouve confrontée à ses éternels ennemis naturels qui lui rappellent sa fragilité. La nature nous rappelle aujourd’hui qu’elle n’est pas que Gaïa la nourricière mais également Nemesis la colérique.

Par ces épreuves, nous prenons conscience que la technologie et la science ne sont pas des oppressions qui nous éloignent d’un état naturel fantasmé mais au contraire le résultat de notre vie et notre confrontation à notre milieu.

Energie nucléaire, produits chimiques, médicaments de synthèse, vaccins: toutes ces solutions qui sont décriées par des minorités qui font beaucoup de bruit sont pourtant les fruits de l’ingéniosité humaine et la source de sa prospérité.

Après le passage de ces heures sombres, nous devrions ressortir plus reconnaissants de ce qui nous permet d’échapper à une vie «courte, brutale et indigente», comme le disait Thomas Hobbes. Retrouvons foi en notre ingéniosité et notre capacité à créer plutôt que porter sans cesse le poids d’une culpabilité infondée de notre présence sur cette Terre.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Україна не може дозволити собі заборони на експорт пшениці

Farm

У середу, заступник міністра економіки Тарас Висоцький повідомив Reuters, що Україна готова ввести заборону на експорт пшениці, якщо його обсяг перевищить узгоджений з трейдерами рівень. Цьому кроку передувало звернення Всеукраїнської асоціації пекарів та асоціації «Борошномели України» до президента Володимира Зеленського, прем’єра Дениса Шмигаля, міністра економрозвитку Ігоря Петрашка та секретаря Ради нацбезпеки і оборони (РНБО) Олексія Данілова з проханням вплинути на ситуацію з підвищенням цін на продовольчу пшеницю.

Заборони на експорт – це природна реакція на надзвичайну ситуацію, спричинену пандемією. Метою є запобігання дефіциту пшениці та зростання цін на зерно всередині країни. Тому, з цієї сторони, такий крок може здаватись виправданим та навіть своєчасним.

Однак проблема у тому що у перспективі такі рішення можуть призвезти до втрат у вигляді погіршення відносин з країнами-торговими партнерами та втратою багатьох експортних можливостей у майбутньому. Так як Україна є одним із найбільших світових експортерів зерна, нам важливо підтримувати цей статус та намагатись збирати рекордний врожай.

Зростання експорту в 2018-ому році забезпечили в основному кукурудза, пшениця, ріпак, м’ясо і субпродукти птиці, олії, тютюн і вироби з нього, яйця і кондитерські вироби. Найбільшими імпортерами української сільгосппродукції в 2018 році були Індія, куди було експортовано аграрної продукції на суму понад 1,8 млрд дол., Китай – 1,2 млрд. дол., Нідерланди – 1,2 млрд. дол., Іспанія – 1 млрд. дол. і Єгипет – 0,9 млрд. Дол.

Міжнародна торгівля важлива тим, що вона дозволяє кожній стороні використовувати свою перевагу і отримувати вигоду з переваги іншої. Таким чином, rраїни, в які ми постачаємо зерно є залежними від наших імпортів так само як наші експортери залежні від від продажу на світовий ринок. В результаті, обидві сторони виграють. Саме тому для нас так важливі ці торгові відносини, і обривати їх шляхом заборони експортів є не найкращим рішенням.

Експорт зерна є важливою частиною економіки України, і заборона або обмеження їх зашкодить вітчизняним експортерам. Цілком ймовірно, що тоді вони – цілком виправдано – вимагатимуть від держави певну грошову підтримку для збереження свого виробництва. Україна, як країна, яка водночас веде війну з Росією, і коронавіруcом і яка по голову в кредитах, не може собі цього дозволити.

Але це не лише Україна. Кілька країн заявили про готовність повернутись всередину. Нещодавно Румунія ввела заборону на вивезення зерна та переробленого зерна (включаючи хлібобулочні вироби) за межі Європейського Союзу, і румунські фермери вже висловили свою стурбованість. Зокрема, вони побоюються, що заборона не буде скасована після закінчення пандемії, і вони не зможуть продати урожай пшениці, ячменю, ріпаку. “Це було б катастрофою, оскільки фермери не мають потужностей для зберігання,” – стверджує Строеску.

Економічний націоналізм є привабливим, але він так само є неймовірно небезпечним в довгостроковій перспективі і підштовхне нашу економіку ще більше вниз.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Gewollt oder nicht, Julia Klöckner treibt die Gen-Revolution positiv an

Die Bundeslandwirtschaftsministerin hat den richtigen Riecher und steht beim Thema Genschere auf der Seite der Wissenschaft. Zu Recht.

Im Jahr 2012 haben Prof. Dr. Thorsten Stafforst und sein Team an der Universität Tübingen entdeckt, dass man durch die Verknüpfung von Enzymen mit manipulierten RNA-Strängen Gene verändern kann. Neben Ribonukleinsäure (RNA) kommen mittlerweile auch andere Methoden im Bereich Gen-Editing zur Anwendungen, am bekanntesten ist wahrscheinlich die Genschere  CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). Für die Einen bloße Zungenbrecher, für Andere ein lebenswichtiger Durchbruch in Medizin und Landwirtschaft.

Aus medizinischer Sicht ist Gen-Editing vielversprechend im Kampf gegen Krebskrankheiten. Zum Beispiel haben Wissenschaftler in den USA zwei innovative Ansätze miteinander vermischt: CRISPR, bei dem DNA umgeschrieben wird, sowie die T-Zelltherapie, bei der dendritische Zellen (die sogenannten “Wächterzellen”) des Immunsystems zur Zerstörung von Tumoren eingesetzt werden. Drei Patienten erhielten im vergangenen Jahr CRISPR-veränderte Versionen ihrer eigenen Zellen. Geheilt werden konnten die Patienten leider nicht mehr, doch die Recherche ist Gold wert. Es zeigte sich vor allem, dass CRISPR sicher als Behandlung eingesetzt werden kann. Im Jahr 2017 konnten zwei Kleinkinder (11 und 18 Monate alt) in den Vereinigten Staaten mit moderner Zelltherapie erfolgreich behandelt werden.

Ähnlich vielversprechend ist Gen-Editing in der Landwirtschaft. An der Universität Wageningen in den Niederlanden haben Forscher letztes Jahr glutenfreien Weizen herstellen können, indem sie mit CRISPR die für Gluten verantwortlichen Gene entfernten. Für Millionen Europäer, die an Zöliakie leidet, ist dies eine vielversprechende Nachricht.

In Belgien wurden unterdessen Fungus-resistente Bananen geschaffen, doch nach einer Entscheidung der EU-Gerichtshofes in Luxemburg (EUGH) verlor das Projekt seine Finanzierung. Der EUGH hatte 2018 beschlossen, dass Gen-Editing unter die Definition von Genetisch Veränderten Organismen (GVO) fällt und daher durch die GVO-Direktive aus dem Jahr 2001 de facto verboten ist. Diese Entscheidung wurde seitdem konsequent kritisiert. Studenten der Universität Wageningen haben derweilen eine EU-Bürgerinitiative gegründet um die Gesetzgebung zu ändern, doch bei solch wissenschaftlichen Themen und wenig Medieninteresse werden wahrscheinlich am Ende die nötigen Unterschriften fehlen und das Quorum nicht erreicht.

Aus dem deutschsprachigen Raum kommen positive Änderungsvorschläge und Beiträge. Die EU-Bürgerinitiative selbst wurde unter anderem von einer Österreicherin und einer Deutschen gestartet.

Bei der Europäischen Behörde für Lebensmittelsicherheit (EFSA) ist es der Österreicher Dr. Bernhard Url, der darauf verweist, dass es in der Wissenschaft den Unterschied zwischen “Gefahr” und “Risiko” gibt : Die “Gefahr” beschreibt das Potenzial, dass etwas Negatives passieren kann, während “Risiko” quantifiziert wie wahrscheinlich es ist, dass etwas Negatives passiert. So ist beispielsweise Wasser an sich harmlos, doch wer zu viel davon trinkt, kann unter negatives Folgen leiden. Sonnenstrahlen sind ebenso harmlos, doch wer sich nicht richtig davor schützt, also in ungesundem Maße konsumiert, der kann sich verbrennen. Die Aussage, dass die Sonne an sich krebserregend sei, wäre aber bizarr.

Dies ist in der Diskussion rund um die Lebensmittelsicherheit wichtig, da das sogenannte Vorsorgeprinzip in der Europäischen Union herrscht. Gegner des Gen-Editings behaupten, dass dieses Prinzip greifen muss, da es eine Gefahr gibt, also das Potenzial, dass etwas Negatives eintrifft. In Wahrheit geht es darum in der Praxis herauszufinden wie wahrscheinlich es ist, dass es eintrifft, und dann im Einzelfall entscheiden. Würde man das Vorsorgeprinzip zum Beispiel konsequent bei Wasser und Sonne anwenden, müssten diese beiden lebenswichtigen Baustoffe verboten werden.

Bundeslandwirtschaftsministerin Julia Klöckner ist offen gegenüber Gen-Editing in der Landwirtschaft. „Die klassische grüne Gentechnik mit CRISPR/Cas in einen Topf zu werfen, halte ich für sachlich falsch”, sagte Klöckner der Nachrichtenagentur Reuters. Bei der Grünen Woche in Berlin gibt es warme Worte für CRISPR von der CDU-Ministerin. Landwirte sollten Zugang zu fortschrittlichen Methoden bekommen. Beim “Global Forum for Food and Agriculture” (GFFA) im Januar in der Hauptstadt, stellten sich Vertreter des Bundeslandwirtschaftsministeriums offen hinter die neue Gentechnik, während Vertreter der Ernährungs- und Landwirtschaftsorganisation der Vereinten Nationen (FAO) auf “Agroökologie” und back-to-basics Landwirtschaft setzen. Die SPD ist unterdessen von Gen-Editing wenig überzeugt und meinte 2018, dass Klöckner das EUGH-Urteil einfach akzeptieren solle.

Zu Recht hat die Ministerin dies bisher nicht gemacht, denn das EUGH-Urteil ist an sich keine Abrechnung mit dieser Technik. Die 2001 GVO-Direktive ist veraltet, und beschreibt in ihrer Definition von genetischer Veränderung (Mutagenese) sogar Prozesse die in der Natur stattfinden, und nicht menschgemacht sind. Der EUGH in Luxemburg hat nach diesen Definitionen gehandelt, und nicht nach Vorsorgeprinzip. Existierende Gen-Editing Fortschritte sind wichtig für Medizin und Landwirtschaft, und benötigen politische Unterstützung.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Activist campaign against synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and GMOs a pending ‘disaster’ for our food supply

arming looks mighty easy when your plough is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the cornfield.’ Those were the prescient words of US president Dwight Eisenhower. Today, debate about farming has been colonized by environmental activists with little regard for the realities of farming.

In January, the 11th Oxford Real Farming Conference was held just a few days after the Oxford Farming Conference. Ironically, while the Oxford Farming Conference features actual professionals from the farming, biotech and retail sectors, the Real Farming Conference objects to this approach. The ‘Real’ conference was established to fight against ‘industrial’ agriculture. Instead of ‘big business’, it hosts farmers alongside eco-alarmists and the likes of Extinction Rebellion. Extinction Rebellion also protested outside the regular Oxford Farming Conference, dressed in bright red, accusing the attendees of killing the planet.

Many eco-warriors take issue with any farming that is non-organic and, in particular, with the use of pesticides and herbicides. Farmers are using herbicides not to upset activists but in an effort to increase crop yields. These products are necessary and safe. They have been approved by medical agencies, food-safety authorities and governments around the globe.

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What’s more, the kind of organic farming favored by environmentalists is actually bad for the environment. As Chris Bullivant explains on CapX, organic farming produces more greenhouse gases than conventional farming – up to 58 per cent more, in fact.

Nevertheless, the Real Farming Conference promoted an ‘organic transition’ away from the use of copper, plastics and ‘other contentious inputs’. Instead of industrial farming, the conference promotes ‘agroecology’ and ‘peasant farming’ – a back-to-basics approach without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, GMOs and herbicides.

An agroecological approach would be a disaster for our food supply. Agroecology researchers themselves admit that this form of agriculture would decrease agricultural production by 35 per cent. But no matter. The activists’ goal is the complete annihilation of conventional intensive farming at any cost.

Modern intensive farming techniques have successfully rid most of our farmland of invasive species and other pests. In the face of this obvious success, the opponents of modern farming have had to stoop to questionable science.At an agroecology conference in Kenya last June, one of the featured speakers was conspiracy theorist Tyrone Hayes. His research gave rise to the conspiracy-monger Alex Jones’s infamous claim that atrazine, a widely used herbicide, ‘turns frogs gay’.

Also promoted as a top-tier speaker was Gilles-Eric Séralini, a French biologist and science correspondent for Le Monde (though he was, in the end, a no-show). Séralini is one of the world’s best-known opponents of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A major anti-GMO study he authored in 2012 has since been retracted and debunked by four government-funded studies (three by the EU and one by France). The scandal became known as the ‘Seralini Affair’. The case against GMOs is based on pseudoscience, but this does not trouble the agroecology movement.

The unfortunate truth is that these agroecology activists are influential. For instance, the head of the UK Soil Association, Gareth Morgan, is regularly quoted in national newspapers. He is agitating for a ban on all pesticides and fertilizers and wants the government to endorse agroecology. Parliament already has an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology. In 2018, Michael Gove, when he was environment secretary, spoke at the Real Farming Conference.

Farming and our food supply are far too important to be sacrificed to the pet projects of conspiracy theorists and radical environmentalists.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Outside the EU, the UK should set its sights on agricultural innovation

Love or hate it, Brexit offers many opportunities for regulatory overhaul. The recently released UK budget gets rid of the tampon tax, a financial instrument long criticised by the feminist movement (and rightfully so). Another tool of regulation which the European Union has long imposed on Britain should now also be axed: the 2001 directive on genetically modified foods. Especially with the current turbulence looming over financial markets, the UK has an obligation to its citizens to allow for better and cheaper food in the shops. New agricultural technologies can make this a reality.

The directive made genetic engineering for the purpose of agriculture practically illegal. Apart from a set of imports and a very select amount of crops, genetic engineering is itself illegal in the EU. Indeed, the language of the legislation is revealing: by calling these foods “genetically modified organisms” (GMOs) – which is not a scientific description because genetic engineering describes the process, not the end product – the EU showed that its motivations were political, not scientific. Key features stand out in the legislation, for instance in this definition:

“genetically modified organism (GMO)” means an organism, with the exception of human beings, in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination;”

The informed reader might know that crop varieties carrying gene mutations through radiation and chemical treatment would fall under this definition, but they are actually exempt in the same directive. It occurred to the European Union that radioactively treated foods that have existed since the 1950s would be outlawed, and so an exemption was made for this form of mutagenesis. While chemical treatments and radiation are imprecise, newer breeding technologies are not.

And this is where the UK can have an advantage over the sclerotic regulation in the EU. Gene editing, also known as “new breeding technologies (NBT)”, is a newer form of genetic engineering, in which modern technologies (such as gene scissors) are used to edit existing DNA.

Gene editing allows us to either remove, silence or insert genes from within species. This is in contrast to the often criticised transgenesis in which genes of one species are inserted into the DNA of another (hence the slur “Frankenfood”). Gene editing has the potential to make enormous advances for human health and agriculture, through a faster mechanism of editing out undesired genomes. It can be so precise in its genetic engineering, that breeding techniques from the last century appear (and are) random.

We are just at the beginning of discovering precision gene editing but even in its infant stage, it is already the most precise way of eliminating unwanted genes in crops. One example is breeding gluten-free wheat, a blessing for everyone suffering from celiac disease.

In a press release by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) earlier this month, scientists explain that the current EU rules on genetically modified organisms (GMO) are not fit for purpose anymore. In a court ruling in 2018, the European court of justice had decided that new breeding technologies should be considered as GMOs, and would, therefore, be outlawed in the EU. 

The EASAC explains that current GMO classifications lack a scientific foundation. Robin Fears, head of the EASAC’s biosciences programme explains:

“A lot has happened since the first regulations have been adopted almost 20 years ago. Reform must strengthen the use of scientific evidence and tackle future uncertainties. In parallel, we need a continued and transparent discussion of the critical, including ethical, issues to build trust between scientists and the public.”

As scientists are battling the European Union to change legislation – which is provenly lengthy and hijacked by anti-science campaigners such as Greenpeace – the UK has a unique opportunity to bypass this challenge and scrap the 2001 directive altogether. Westminster could create its own set of rules, allowing for a fast-tracked authorisation process on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to sweeping and unscientific generalisations by Brussels.

In a time of economic uncertainty, genetic engineering gives us the opportunity to make food safer, cheaper and more affordable. Evidence shows that genome editing has benefits for nutrition and productive, low-pesticide and resource-conserving agriculture. If the government seeks to combine its efforts for improved purchase power, while reducing its CO2 emissions and cutting (now necessary) crop protection tools, then it should look to cut red tape on vital agricultural technology.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

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