Senate bill boosts regional ‘seeds and breeds’

The USDA would offer at least $75 million a year for the development of regionally adapted plant seeds and livestock breeds at public universities under a bill filed by five senators. Sponsors said regional diversity would make the U.S. food chain more resilient and more productive.

USDA report highlights harms of seed consolidation

A new report released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that seed industry consolidation and restrictive intellectual property regimes are stifling small, independent, and public seed breeding programs. No paywall

New report shows farmers disapprove of Bayer-Monsanto merger

A new poll and report from the Konkurrenz Group found that the vast majority of farmers disapprove of the proposed merger between Bayer and Monsanto. Nearly a thousand farmers, from 48 states, responded to the poll.

A seed movement sprouts within the food movement

Celebrated New York chef Ban Barber is launching a seed company that unites the interests of chefs with the capabilities of plant breeders, reports the Washington Post in a story produced in partnership with FERN. Row 7 Seed Co "hopes to develop new varieties driven by flavor and nutrition that have a chance to make it in the wider marketplace."

Hey, check out the seeds at the Tucson library

The Pima County Public Library system was one of the first in the nation in 2012 when it began to circulate seeds, says High Country News, an approach patterned on the traditional lending library that makes available to readers. "Aspiring gardeners can look up varieties electronically, put seeds on reserve and check out 10 packs at a time."

Syrian seeds shake up Europe’s plant patent regime

Salvatore Ceccarelli knew he was engaging in a subversive act when, in 2010, he took two twenty kilo sacks of bread and durum wheat seeds from a seed bank outside of Aleppo, Syria and brought them to Italy during a visit back to his home country. Now, seven years later, those seeds from the Fertile Crescent, the birthplace of domesticated agriculture, with thousands of years of evolution behind them, are poised to challenge the system of plant patenting in Europe, and, soon enough perhaps, the United States.

Twenty-nine states make it illegal for counties and cities to pass seed laws [UPDATE]

With little notice, more than two dozen state legislatures have passed “seed-preemption laws” designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs. Opponents say that there’s nothing more fundamental than a seed, and that now, in many parts of the country, decisions about what can be grown have been taken out of local control and put solely in the hands of the state. (No paywall)

Neonic pesticides keep wild bees from laying eggs, says study

Wild bumblebee queens exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides were 26 percent less likely to lay eggs than unexposed queens, says a study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Biggest farm equipment maker also is a large farm lender

"Nothing runs like a Deere," according to an old tagline for the world's largest farm equipment maker, and nothing lends like a Deere, either, says the Wall Street Journal. The company, which lends billions of dollars to farmers who buy its equipment, "is providing more short-term credit for crop supplies such as seeds, chemicals and fertilizer, making it the No. 5 agricultural lender."

A battle over seed royalties roils India and Monsanto

A groundswell of Hindu nationalism has inspired resistance in India to foreign influence and large multinationals, such as Monsanto, says Reuters in describing corporate battle that has disrupted the country's seed industry. Monsanto has withdrawn its application to sell a new generation of GE cotton seed in India, which recently became the largest cotton grower in the world.

Hawaii nixes tougher pesticide regulations

Hawaiian lawmakers killed a bill that would have required agribusiness companies like Monsanto and Syngenta to notify nearby residents before spraying pesticides, says Civil Beat. “Reporting provisions requiring notifications for each application would be very onerous and difficult to carry out,” testified Warren Mayberry, DuPont Pioneer’s senior manager of government affairs.

Bayer plans large R&D spending if Trump administration approves takeover of Monsanto

The executives who want to create the largest seed and ag chemical company in the world told President-elect Donald Trump that they would spend at least $16 billion over six years on agricultural research in the United States if regulators approve Bayer's purchase of Monsanto.

Will ChemChina claim immunity against U.S. lawsuits?

With state-owned ChemChina prepared to take over Syngenta, one of the largest seed companies in the world, Senate Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley wants to know if the Chinese company would invoke sovereign immunity against lawsuits in U.S. courts. "If they fail to answer my questions, it ought to raise a big red flag with our regulators checking the antitrust laws against the mergers," Grassley told reporters according to DTN.

CA governor signs law to help small-scale seed exchanges

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed an amendment to the California Seed Law, exempting “non-commercial seed sharing activities from industrial labeling, testing, and permitting requirements,” says Shareable.

U.S. antitrust lawsuit wants to stop Deere purchase of Precision Planting

The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit in federal court in Chicago to block Deere and Co., the world's largest farm equipment maker, from buying Precision Planting, its chief competitor in selling high-speed seed planters to farmers. The government says the two companies account for at least 86 percent of sales of the planters, which are expected to become the industry standard.

Seed startup closes $100 million funding to tackle water scarcity

Seed startup Indigo said that it closed a $100 million Series C investment, the largest private equity financing in the agriculture technology sector. Indigo first came onto the map in February when it unveiled cotton seeds laced in probiotics that conserve water and help replenish the soil. With more funding, the company plans to expand research and launch its first line of probiotic wheat seeds.

After 20 years, plantings of GE crops plateau

A slump in commodity prices stalled worldwide plantings of genetically engineered crops at 179.7 million hectares (444 million acres) in 2015, says a group that encourages use of agricultural biotechnology.

Chinese corn spy faces up to five years in prison

Chinese businessman Mo Hailong pleaded guilty in Des Moines to conspiracy to steal trade secrets - inbred corn seeds from two of the largest U.S. seed companies - in return for prosecutors' recommendation of a shorter prison sentence, said the Justice Department. "Mo Hailong participated in the theft of inbred corn seeds from fields in the Southern District of Iowa for the purpose of transporting the seeds to China. The stolen inbred, or parent, seeds were the valuable intellectual property of DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto."

Vermont Senate passes GMO food labeling bill

Vermont state senators passed, 28-2, a bill to require labels on foods made with genetically modified organisms and sold at retail - one of the final steps toward the first such state law.

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