Australian and international farm policy news

EU decision on glyphosate postponed, again

European Union (EU) officials have, again, postponed the decision on reauthorising use of glyphosate, after a vote by the European Parliament in favour of phasing out the controversial herbicide by 2022. The chemical’s current EU license expires on 15 December.

The European Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution to ban glyphosate on 24 October. A committee of the European Commission had planned to vote on 25 October on the proposed renewal of the chemical’s license for 10 years, but after the Parliament vote, the Commission dropped the proposal.

EU officials failed to get enough votes to reauthorise glyphosate in June 2016, when the Commission proposed renewing it for 15 years. The Commission extended the license for 18 months while regulators evaluated glyphosate’s safety. Since then, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Food Safety Authority have declared no evidence links glyphosate to cancer or reproductive effects.

However, EU member nations have yet to reach consensus on an appropriate length of time for glyphosate’s reauthorisation. The Commission is now trying for an agreement in the five- to seven-year range. Farm groups and pesticide makers are urging EU officials to reauthorise the use of glyphosate for 15 years, the full term for a pesticide. ‘Without renewal, our affordable food supplies and agricultural conservation will be thrown into jeopardy,’ says Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General of Copa and Cogeca. EU officials are expected to discuss the reauthorisation again at the next committee meeting on 6 November.

Impossible Burger GMO

Impossible Foods have created a plant-based burger designed to be extremely beeflike. While you might expect the Impossible Burger to be championed by animal rights activists, Impossible Foods have fallen foul of the activist group Friends of the Earth.

Soy leghemoglobin, or SLH, the key ingredient that makes the Impossible Burger so meaty, is created using genetically modified yeast. ‘This is a protein produced with genetic engineering; it’s a new food ingredient,’ said Dana Perls, senior food and technology campaigner at Friends of the Earth. ‘The case of Impossible Burger raises concerns that implicates the extreme genetic engineering field of synthetic biology, particularly the new high-tech investor trend of “vat-itarian” foods.’

World’s smallest wine vintage since 1961

The Paris-based International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) predicts the global 2017 vintage to be the lowest since 1961. It is estimated to slump 8.2% – equivalent to about 3 billion less bottles – to 246.7 million hectoliters. Italy accounts for half of the drop in global wine volume, with the country’s 2017 vintage predicted to slump 23%, French output may fall 19%, and Spanish production is expected to drop 15%. ‘The main reason is the freeze that affected the vineyards of western Europe,’ said Jean-Marie Aurand, OIV’s Director General.

Australia is the world’s fifth-biggest wine producer, with 2017 vintage estimates 6% higher than last year. Argentina’s production is predicted to rebound 25%, based on the OIV’s estimates.

Bird flu mutation increases human threat

Genetic analysis of H7N9 viruses obtained from Chinese poultry from 2013 to 2017 identified new mutations that make the virus more lethal in chickens and may pose a greater threat to human health, based on virulence and transmissibility tests in animal models. Researchers from China reported their findings in Cell Research (24 October).

The researchers said the mutations have already been detected in humans in China, and with the threat to poultry and humans, the findings underscore the need for control steps to curb the spread of the virus. The authors warned that culling alone will not solve the problem, because the widely circulating low-pathogenic virus can mutate to a highly pathogenic form at any time.

Image:  Soil Science