World in brief

Labelling initiative moves closer

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) — An initiative requiring mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods in Oregon moved one step closer to the November ballot after advocates said they submitted more than enough qualifying signatures to the state.

Oregon Right to Know officials say they submitted more than 155,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office in Salem, far exceeding the required 87,213 needed by July 3 to qualify for the ballot.

The state, which must validate the signatures, has until Aug. 2 to determine if it will qualify.

World food stocks improve

ROME, Italy (Reuters) — The outlook for world supplies of cereals and vegetable oils improved in June, contributing to the third straight monthly drop in global food prices, the United Nations’ food agency has said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s price index, which measures monthly price changesfor a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 206 points in June, down 3.8 points or 1.8 percent from May.

The figure was almost 2.8 percent below June 2013 and the lowest since January, as cereal prices fell on better crop prospects and reduced concern over disrupted shipments from Ukraine.

The FAO’s cereal price index averaged 196.2 points in June, down 10.9 points or 5.2 percent from a revised 207 points in May, mainly due to falls of almost seven percent in wheat and corn.

EU, U.S. trade deal stalls

BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) — German chancellor Angela Merkel has made a plea for the European Union and the United States to complete their talks about forming a new transatlantic free trade area.

“I feel totally committed to this deal and really want to implement it,” she told a conference of business supporters of her conservative party in Berlin, warning them about the false arguments used by the deal’s detractors.

Supporters say creating the world’s largest free trade pact, and a marketplace of 815 million people, could boost the EU and U.S. economies by $100 billion US a year each.

However, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has met resistance in Europe, including concerns about imports of U.S. food and the need to protect European culture.

Merkel’s frustration at the talks’ slow progress was echoed by former U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab, who told the conference in Berlin that opponents of the deal should be aware of the potential cost of turning it down.

Charge laid in plot to steal corn technology

(Reuters) — A Chinese woman has been arrested and charged with trying to steal patented U.S. seed technology.

Authorities say she was part of a plot to smuggle specialized corn from farm fields in the U.S. Midwest for use in China.

The woman, Mo Yun, is married to the founder and chair of a Chinese conglomerate that runs a corn seed subsidiary. She and her brother, Mo Hailong, who also goes by the name Robert Mo, worked together with others from China to steal the valuable corn seed from Iowa and Illinois, according to law enforcement officials.

Mo Yun was arrested July 1 in Los Angeles, while Mo Hailong was indicted and arrested in December. His trial is set for Dec. 1. Both are charged in U.S. District Court in Iowa with conspiracy to steal trade secrets. The conspirators dug up corn seedlings from fields, stole mature ears of corn and unlawfully obtained packaged corn seed, according to court documents.

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