As the Week in Review prepared to go to press this week, news broke that the EU’s top court had ruled that new gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9 count as GMOs and should be regulated as such. This goes against the recommendations of the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC)—the body representing the national science academies of the EU member states—and other scientific authorities, whose stance is that a product that does not contain foreign DNA should not fall under GM legislation.
“The potential costs of not using a new technology, or being slow in adoption, must be acknowledged,” EASAC has stated. “There is no time to lose in resolving the problems for food and nutrition security in Europe. More broadly, there should be full transparency in disclosing the process used and the EU should seek to regulate the trait and/or product rather than the technology used in generating that product. That is, when considering safety issues, the focus should be on assessing whether the novel attributes of the plant might represent a risk to the environment or human health, irrespective of the breeding technique employed.” This ruling came as something of a surprise, as European Court of Justice advocate general Michal Bobek had, in January, advised that organisms with no added foreign DNA could be granted exemption from GMO rules. A summary of the ruling may be found here.
In Ethiopia, a conflict continues over the patent right to teff, a grain indigenous to the country and one of its most important staples. Dutch company Health and Performance Food International (HPFI) has registered the patent right for the preparation of teff products in five countries since 2003. Ethiopian legal experts are now preparing to file charges at the International Court of Arbitration to reclaim the patent right for teff. The grain originated in Ethiopia between BC4000 and BC1000.
According to an article in the Ethiopian Herald, “a 2005 agreement between Ethiopia and the Dutch company HPFI gave HPFI access to 12 Ethiopian teff varieties, which it was to use for developing new teff-based products for the European market. In return, the company was to share substantial benefits with Ethiopia, according to the Ethiopian Biodiversity Conservation. HPFI managed to obtain a broad patent on the processing of teff flour in Europe covering ripe grain as well as fine flour, dough, batter and non-traditional teff products. This patent, along with other values of the company, had then been transferred to new companies set up by the same owners, sources indicated.”
From the B4FA Fellows, we have two best practice pieces from Uganda. Michael Ssali writes about getting the most out of your farm by seeking the advice and cameraderie of extension workers and fellow farmers. Meanwhile, Lominda Afedraru discusses the best way to increase one’s watermelon yield in “The ABCs of growing watermelons”.
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European court appears poised to rule that gene edited crops should not be regulated as GMOs
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Uganda: The ABCs of growing watermelons
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Uganda: Getting the most out of your farm
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Interested to know about the latest advances in hybrid rice technology? Apply now and be equipped with advanced skills on hybrid rice seed production. Hybrid Seed Production Training, 23-25 October 2018, Hyderabad, India
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