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European scientists descend on Africa to promote genetically modified crops

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Africa is expected to be the next target of GM food companies, as European scientists and policymakers travel to Ethiopia to boost the prospect of growing more of the controversial crops on the continent.

Anne Glover, the chief scientific adviser to the European commission, and other prominent pro-GM researchers and policymakers from European countries including Germany, Hungary, Italy and Sweden will this week meet Ethiopian, Kenyan, Ghanaian and Nigerian farm ministers as well as officials from the African Union.

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The British environment secretary, Owen Paterson, who said last year that the UK would be acting immorally if it did not make GM crop technologies available to poor countries, pulled out of the conference in Addis Ababa, organised by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (Easac).

According to an Easac spokeswoman, the meeting is intended to help EU and African scientists collaborate to allow the crops to be grown more easily on the continent. “EU policy on GM crops is massively important for Africa,” she said. “A lot of countries are scared to do any research. They fear they will be punished by EU restrictions. They depend on the EU for their exports.”

Critics, however, said the meeting was a thinly disguised attempt to promote GM farming at a governmental level, whether or not it was good for local farmers.

“The meeting has the appearance of giving the European stamp of approval on GM crops, even though the majority of EU citizens oppose GM in food,” said a spokeswoman for GM Watch, a UK-based NGO.

The talks take place as industry data shows the increade in the planting of GM crops has practically halted in the US and as G8 countries, led by the US and Britain, press African states to liberalise their farming as part of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition initiative.

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The New Alliance is intended to accelerate African agricultural production, but farmers have widely criticised it as a new form of colonialism.

Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, has described Africa as the last frontier for large-scale commercial farming. “There’s a struggle for land, for investment, for seed systems, and, first and foremost, there’s a struggle for political influence,” he said.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (Isaaa), South Africa grows GM food crops, and Burkina Faso and Sudan cotton. Seven other African countries – Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda – have conducted GM field trials. The first drought-tolerant genetically modified maize is expected to be grown on the continent in 2017, it says.

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Annual figures from Isaaa show that US farmers planted 70.1m hectares (173m acres) of GM crops in 2013, less than 1% more than in 2011 and 2012. Latin American and Asian farmers grow more than half of the world’s GM crops, mostly for animal feed or cotton production.

The latest figures show that 77% of the world’s GM crops are grown in three countries – 40% in the US, 23% in Brazil and 14% in Argentina – with plantings in Europe and Africa negligible, and concern growing worldwide about the emergence of herbicide-resistant “superweeds”.

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guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014


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2020 Election

Here are 3 winners and 3 losers from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate

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Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the other leading Democratic presidential primary candidates Wednesday night in the fieriest evening of the race so far.

His presence on the stage drew fire from the other candidates, but it also seemed to change the overall tone of the debate, with more attacks, counter-attacks, and passion than was generally seen earlier in the campaign.

Here’s a (necessarily subjective!) list of the winners and losers from the fray:

Winners

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — Warren hit her stride right as the debate started by attacking Bloomberg for his record on the mistreatment of women, racist policies, and his tax returns. She repeatedly came back to skewer the former mayor, making herself the biggest and most notable presence in the debate. But importantly, she also continuously brought the discussion back to the issues she cares about — like expanding health care, environmental justice,  and consumer protection — while getting in digs at the other candidates on the stage.

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Michael Bloomberg ‘lost everything’ in Las Vegas: MSNBC analyst

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Senior editor for "The Root," Jason Johnson, concluded that the biggest loser of the Democratic debate in Las Vegas Wednesday was Michael Bloomberg, but not merely because of his debate performance.

"The big new name was going to be Michael Bloomberg," he said. "This was probably the most expensive night in Vegas I've ever seen. He lost everything. This guy has spent $320 million. He had the opportunity to stand on stage, and appear to be an equal, and he looked bored. He looked disenchanted. He stumbled over obvious questions that anybody would have anticipated about sexual harassment and stop and frisk. I thought it was a bad night for him."

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Pro-immigration protesters interrupt Joe Biden’s closing statement at debate

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Former Vice President Joe Biden's closing statement was interrupted by protesters at Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate.

As Biden began his remarks, demonstrators began shouting about the Obama administration's record on deportations.

WATCH: Protesters interrupt the #DemDebate as the debate nears end. pic.twitter.com/TKCn6eIEsN

— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 20, 2020

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