French farmers have called for a large demonstration. Between February 8 and 20, 2023, farmers will drive their tractors into the heart of Paris to protest against the gradual decline in French agricultural production. The farmers have an ever-decreasing number of pesticides at their disposal to protect their crops.
Bioengineered crops have been cultivated in many parts of the world for around 25 years. Several publications bear witness to the great benefits of biotechnology in agriculture. The cultivation of the plants has a positive effect on the environment, the climate and yields for farmers.
The world’s first Golden Rice harvest recently took place in the Philippines. The rice is enriched with a beta carotene gene, which can be converted into vitamin A in the human body. The aim is to bring an end to the widespread vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries. But there has been and still is massive resistance to growing it.
It is essential that society has confidence in research. Only in this way can it realise its maximum potential and ultimately overcome social challenges such as climate change or a pandemic. But there are also critical voices: Some of the Swiss population has little or no trust in science. Four experts debated how research can gain people's trust at an «NZZ Live» panel discussion.
Authorisation of new crop protection products: federal government hesitates, parliament exerts pressure
In Switzerland, the authorisation of new crop protection products is stalling. And there is a disturbing asymmetry. The federal government immediately withdraws authorisations for crop protection products that the EU takes off the market.
New 2023 data from Tox Info Suisse shows: Medicines and household products are primarily responsible for poisonings in Switzerland. Tox Info provided over 40,000 telephone poison counselling sessions last year. The statistics contrast with the media coverage. When the media talk about "poison", the focus is usually on pesticides. In the consultation statistics, however, products from agriculture and horticulture figure towards the bottom of the table with 2.2 per cent of consultations.
Blick and Beobachter report that the federal government is increasingly approving emergency authorisations for crop protection at the request of manufacturing companies, suggesting that substances banned on the Swiss market are being reintroduced through the back door, so to speak. The story is as engaging as it is false. What is true, however, is that there are more and more pests for which no authorised products are available. The authorisation process is stalling.
Can pesticides be found in urine if you only consume organic products? A journalist from CH-Media asked herself this question. She wanted to carry out a self-experiment to find out whether organic food is healthier. The results and the expert statements speak against it.
Pesticides are to blame for an increase in brain tumours in children in the Zürcher Weinland and the Bernese Seeland, according to a study carried out three years ago. Experts commissioned by the federal government have now come to a different conclusion: the results could also have been accidental.
The EU Commission has decided to endorse the assessment of the European Food Safety Authority, which found no critical problem areas regarding the effects of glyphosate on the environment and human and animal health. The EU Commission's science-based decision to extend the authorisation for a further 10 years is also a rejection of the scare campaigns by Greenpeace and Co.
It is disappointing what the Federal Council announced in a media release on 25 October 2023 on the subject of new genetic methods. Both in terms of content and timing, the government is putting on the brakes. The dithering is incomprehensible.
Greenpeace has been fighting bitterly against green genetic engineering for decades. SWR Wissen investigated why the environmental campaign organisation has become so entrenched in the issue and detached itself from scientific evidence. In the case of "Golden Rice", the consequences are particularly glaring. But alarmism also threatens to block important innovations in new breeding methods.
The UN's Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has explored how invasive alien species contribute to species extinction. The report's findings are stark: Invasive alien species significantly threaten our natural environment, economy, food security, and health.
Switzerland is witnessing a concerning decline in its traditional tall fruit trees. Not only is their upkeep labor-intensive, but the introduced cherry vinegar fly (Kirschessigfliege) has also wreaked havoc on their fruit.
The economic interdependence of the world has increased greatly over the past years and decades. Due to the brisk trade activity between the continents, invasive plant and animal species are also spreading faster and faster. This can lead to serious problems for native vegetation and agriculture. According to the FOEN, the canton of Ticino is particularly affected.
The Japanese beetle was first discovered in Switzerland in 2017 in Ticino. Now it has made it to the northern side of the Alps. After being found in Basel-Stadt and Solothurn, a larger population of the beetles has been found in Kloten for the first time. They are controlled with traps, but also pesticides.
In the Philippines, the cultivation of Golden Rice has been temporarily banned. NGOs have obtained a cultivation ban based on scientifically untenable arguments. The poorest people, who could be protected from nutritional deficiencies by this rice, are the ones suffering the most. Martin Qaim, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Bonn, strongly criticizes this renewed blockade and explains the background in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung."
For potato farmers globally, late blight has been a persistent foe. While European farmers battle it, in Africa, the repercussions are often more devastating due to limited resources. Yet, there's newfound hope.
The British Parliament is planning to pass a law that will provide new legislation for new breeding technologies, such as genome editing. This new legislation will pave the way for Great Britain to become a leading figure in agri-food research.
The coronavirus pandemic, the Ukraine war and the energy crisis have all brought the vulnerability of supply chains into sharp relief. In an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger, the Director of the Federal Office for Agriculture, Christian Hofer, warns against becoming too dependent on food imports. Switzerland must take care of its food security.
Organic products have to be taken off retailers’ shelves at an above-average rate. The reason for this is toxins from plants harvested together with the organic produce or from molds. They can be controlled less well in organic agriculture than in conventional agriculture.
Around one third of the people on the African continent live without safe access to water. According to the United Nations, even in the most water-rich regions of the continent there is insufficient water security. In addition, the large groundwater reserves in Africa are virtually unused. In the most recent World Water Report, the UN therefore calls for intelligent use of groundwater.
The Council of States (upper house of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland) intends to allow genome editing provided that no foreign genetic material is inserted into new plant varieties through this method. The decision is causing consternation among genetic engineering skeptics. But you only have to look at their arguments to see that the opponents of genetic engineering are fighting with yesterday’s weapons.
For about 15 years now, the story of alleged colony collapse disorder has persisted in the media, often attributed to pesticides and genetically modified plants. There is increasing evidence, however, that worldwide honey bee populations remain stable or are even growing.
Professor Nuno Maulide is Director of the Institute of Organic Chemistry at the University of Vienna. The Portuguese-born professor talks about misunderstood chemistry in an interview with Visao, a Portuguese news magazine.
If you look closely, you can see: The number comes from a 35-year-old study. In a thought experiment at the time, suicides involving pesticides in Sri Lanka were extrapolated worldwide.
Danger and risk are often confused in the discussion surrounding pesticides. Sometimes the two terms are even used synonymously. That is as incorrect as it is negligent, because dangerous substances do not always present a high risk. By the same token, substances that are not considered to be dangerous can indeed pose a risk. Danger and risk are therefore not identical.
The second Swiss-Food Talk was attended by three internationally recognised experts from the fields of toxicology, water protection and food safety. They discussed the handling of limit values and the partly wrong interpretation in the public discourse. The scientists pleaded for more objectivity.
Everything that occurs in nature is healthy and synthetically produced substances, i.e. "chemical" substances, are toxic. This myth is fundamentally wrong: There are many highly toxic substances in nature, and at the same time there are many synthetic substances that are absolutely harmless.