International News

2016-12-07 |

The organic regulation review has reached a dead end – we need to turn around

Agriculture in the EU is facing crises across the board: from the declining livelihoods of farmers and exodus from rural areas,
to the contributions to climate change, and from the harm to biodiversity to the degradation of soils. Meanwhile across the
EU, science and consumers are showing that organic delivers. Organic empowers farmers to design agronomic systems that
are more resilient economically and environmentally, enabling them to reduce dependence on external inputs, and
promoting the development – rather than the degradation – of the natural resources on which we depend for food
production. At the same time, year-on-year growth for organic in the EU is 6-7%, far beyond any other food & drink market
segment, and consumers regularly cite environmental reasons and bans on synthetic pesticide use as reasons for their
choice.

Continuous improvement is part of the organic mindset and the organic movement welcomes initiatives to help organic
farming and food develop. A review of the existing organic regulation had the potential to improve the legal framework; to
support farmers who want to go organic; to guarantee fair competition and improve the functioning of the single market;
to make application of the rules simpler and clearer; and to sustain the already high level of consumer confidence among
EU citizens. There were positive proposals from the EU institutions (Commission, Council and Parliament), such as the
establishment of environmental performance criteria for traders and processors, and new means to increase integrity in the
controls and in the import rules governing organic.

2016-12-07 |

Victory! GE Mosquitoes Will Not Be Let Loose on Florida Community

Citizens/environment will not be impacted by novel experiment releasing millions of GE mosquitoes

WASHINGTON— The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will not move forward with the controversial release of millions of genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes in the community of Key Haven in Monroe County, Florida. The release of the GE mosquitoes would have been the first-ever in the United States, but FDA failed to conduct adequate testing for potential impacts to people, threatened and endangered species, and the environment. During the November 2016 election, local citizens voted against the release of the insects.

A coalition of public interest groups – including Center for Food Safety (CFS), Friends of the Earth (FOE), Foundation Earth, the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, and Food & Water Watch – yesterday received a response to their 60-day notice of intent to sue FDA under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for failing to take into account impacts to federally listed species in a fast-tracked approval of the release of the GE mosquitoes.

2016-12-06 |

President Juncker announces a Communication in 2017 on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy

The European Commission will adopt before the end of 2017 a Communication on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced this morning. Opening the 2016 Agricultural Outlook Conference, President Juncker explainedSearch for available translations of the preceding linkFR•••: "Simplification and modernization will be the key words and the primary objective of the Communication on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy which the Commission plans to adopt before the end of 2017. The first step will be a public consultation which will be launched at the beginning of next year and which will allow each of you to contribute to the debate on the direction that this important strategic policy should take in the future."

2016-12-06 |

Biodiversity Convention call to block new 'genetic extinction' GMOs

GMWatch & The Ecologist

160 global groups have called for a moratorium on new 'genetic extinction' technology at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Cancun, Mexico. Gene drive technology, they say, poses serious and irreversible threats to biodiversity, national sovereignty, peace and food security.

International conservation and environmental leaders from over 160 organisation are calling on governments at the 2016 COP13 of the Biodiversity Convention to establish a moratorium on the controversial genetic extinction technology called 'gene drives'.

Gene drives, developed through new gene-editing techniques, are designed to force a particular genetically engineered trait to spread through an entire wild population - potentially changing entire species or even causing deliberate extinctions.

The statement urges governments to put in place an urgent, global moratorium on the development and release of the new technology which, they say, poses "serious and potentially irreversible threats to biodiversity, as well as national sovereignty, peace, and food security."

Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, representing the Federation of German Scientists, said: "It is essential that we pause, to allow the scientific community, local communities and society at large to debate and reflect. We can't allow ourselves to be led by a novel technique.

"We lack the knowledge and understanding to release gene drives into the environment - we don't even know what questions to ask. To deliberately drive a species to extinction has major ethical, social and environmental implications."

"Gene drives will be one of the fiercest debates at CBD this year", added Jim Thomas of ETC Group. "Gene drives are advancing far too quickly in the real world, and so far are unregulated. There are already hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into gene drive development, and even reckless proposals to release gene drives within next four years."

2016-12-05 |

Genetic extinction technology and digital DNA challenged at UN Convention

Civil society defends rights of indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers against big-pharma and biotech

CANCUN, MEXICO —This week, international conservation and environmental leaders will meet to call on governments to protect biodiversity, indigenous people and local communities’ rights from controversial new biotechnologies. Regulatory advocates will weigh in on the controversial uses of a genetic extinction technology called gene drives and the handling of digital gene sequences.

What: Thousands of government and civil society representatives convene for the 2016 UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) Conference of the Parties.

Where: Cancun, Mexico

When: December 5-17, 2016. Civil society groups will be hosting side events to caution for stronger regulations of synthetic biology starting December 5.

Quotes from regulatory advocates and stakeholders:

“At the top of the agenda for this year’s biodiversity convention is how to govern the outpouring of new biotechnologies in a way that protects nature and people’s livelihoods,” said Jim Thomas, program director at ETC Group. “A coalition of civil society groups is calling especially for a moratorium on the use of gene drives and for rules that protect against the digital theft of genetic resources from communities.”

“To alter wild populations or bring whole species to extinction has major ethical, social and environmental implications. Not only do we lack the knowledge and understanding to carry out such complex risk assessments, we don’t even know what questions to ask,” said Dr. Steinbrecher, biologist and molecular geneticist representing the Federation of German Scientists. “We need to pause and allow the scientific community, local communities and society at large to debate and reflect, rather than simply allowing technology to lead us down this path. In the meantime, a moratorium is essential.”

“Unprincipled distribution and unapproved use of digital DNA threatens 25 years of international work on access and benefit sharing rules,” said Ed Hammond, research associate, Third World Network. “The Cancun COP must step in and address the breach that is opening between digital and physical access to biodiversity.”

Dana Perls, senior campaigner, Friends of the Earth U.S. said: “Speculative companies are threatening biodiversity with dangerous technologies and stealing genetic resources that indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers have historically stewarded for the good of humankind. We must not let companies take over nature for the sake of profit and market control.”

2016-12-05 |

Call for a Global Moratorium on Gene Drives

Common Call for a Global Moratorium on Genetically-engineered Gene Drives

In view of the significant ecological, cultural and societal threats posed by genetically-engineered gene drives, including threats to biodiversity, national sovereignty, peace and food security, we the undersigned call upon governments at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in accordance with the precautionary principle, to put in place a moratorium on 1) any further technical development and experimental application of gene drives, and 2) environmental release of genetically-engineered gene drives.

2016-12-05 |

Gene Drives, Gene editing: 160 Global Groups Call for Moratorium on New Genetic Extinction Technology at UN Convention

CANCUN, MEXICO – This week, international conservation and environmental leaders are calling on governments at the 2016 UN Convention on Biodiversity to establish a moratorium on the controversial genetic extinction technology called gene drives.

More resources on gene drives and campaigns at CBD COP13

Gene drives, developed through new gene-editing techniques- are designed to force a particular genetically engineered trait to spread through an entire wild population – potentially changing entire species or even causing deliberate extinctions. The statement urges governments to put in place an urgent, global moratorium on the development and release of the new technology, which poses serious and potentially irreversible threats to biodiversity, as well as national sovereignty, peace and food security.

Over 160 civil society organisations from six continents have joined the call. Among them were environmental organizations including Friends of the Earth International; International Union of Food Workers representing over 10 million workers in 127 countries ; organizations representing millions of small-scale famers around the world, such as the La Via Campesina International and the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements; the international indigenous peoples’ organization Tebtebba; scientist coalitions including European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility and Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad (Mexico); as well as ETC Group and Third World Network.

“We lack the knowledge and understanding to release gene drives into the environment – we don’t even know what questions to ask. To deliberately drive a species to extinction has major ethical, social and environmental implications,” says Dr. Steinbrecher, representing the Federation of German Scientists. “It is essential that we pause, to allow the scientific community, local communities and society at large to debate and reflect. We can’t allow ourselves to be led by a novel technique. In the meantime, a moratorium is essential.”

“These genetic extinction technologies are false solutions to our conservation challenges,” said Dana Perls of Friends of the Earth. “We want to support truly sustainable and community driven conservation efforts. Gene drives could be co-opted by agribusiness and military interests. We need a moratorium on irreversible and irresponsible technologies such as gene drives.”

“Gene drives will be one of the fiercest debates at CBD this year,” says Jim Thomas of ETC Group. “Gene drives are advancing far too quickly in the real world, and so far are unregulated. There are already hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into gene drive development, and even reckless proposals to release gene drives within next four years.”

“The CBD is the premier international treaty for protecting biodiversity and life on earth from new threats,” said Lim Li Ching of Third World Network. “It is within the mandate of the CBD to adopt this moratorium, and countries that are party to this agreement must act now to avoid serious or irreversible harm.”

2016-12-04 |

International biodiversity conference in Mexico: German Minister for the Environment opposed to the release of organisms with a 'gene-drive'

The uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms is already a reality

4 December 2016 / The German Minister for the Environment, Barbara Hendricks, has taken a clear stand against any release of genetically engineered organisms inheriting a 'gene drive'. In a statement she says, “I share your concern that 'gene drives' can severely impact ecosystems, and believe that special precautions are needed in research and risk assessment. From an environmental point of view, I do not think that a release of organisms inheriting a 'gene drive' can be justified with our current level of knowledge.” Her letter was sent to civil society organisations (CSOs) in Germany ahead of the 13 Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which will take place from 4 - 17 December in Mexico.

Besides genetic information, so-called ’gene-drives’ also change the frequency of heredity. Gene drives are created by using new methods of genetic engineering, known as CRISPR-Cas. Once inserted into an organism, the newly introduced DNA will be transferred homozygously in each generation, and therefore spread throughout populations much faster than would be the case with natural heredity. Currently, there are ongoing discussions about whether this method should be applied in the genetic engineering of natural populations, such as insects, weeds and wild animals. Once released, these organisms can cause irreversible damage in ecological systems – and there are no known measures that can be taken to withdraw them from the environment.

2016-12-03 |

Gene Drives: Solution or Problem? Sacred or Synthetic?

Gene drives are a new biotechnology development that allow humans the unprecedented capability to profoundly alter or even drive to extinction entire populations or whole species of organisms. Are they a valued tool for conservation? Or are they more likely to fail, make matters worse, and fall into the hands of those who seek profit-making at all cost? Or will they be used for military applications?

This page serves as a platform to gather and share critical perspective on gene drives. Below you will find recent resources and further information on the subject, including videos, briefings and campaigning tools. This page will grow as resistance to gene drive technologies does, so come back regularly! You can also find contact information below for the Civil Society Working Group on Gene Drives, should you wish to get in touch or find out more.

2016-12-02 |

Synthetic Biology and the CBD

Five key decisions for COP 13 & COP-MOP 8
December 2016

Synthetic biology describes the next generation of biotechnologies that attempt to engineer, re-design, re-edit and synthesize biological systems, including at the genetic level. Synthetic biology goes far beyond the first generation of ‘transgenic’ engineered organisms. Predicted to be almost a 40 billion dollar (US) market by 2020, industrial activity in synthetic biology is rapidly exploding as new genome editing tools and cheaper synthesis of DNA make it easier and faster to genetically re-design or alter biological organisms.

Synthetic biology threatens to undermine all three objectives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) if Parties fail to act on the following 5 key issues:
1. Operational Definition. It’s time for the CBD to adopt an operational definition of synthetic biology.
2. Precaution: Gene drives. Gene drives pose wide ecological and societal threats and should be placed under a moratorium.
3. Biopiracy: Digital Sequences. Synthetic biology allows for digital theft and use of DNA sequences – this must be addressed by both the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol.
4. Socio-economic Impacts: Sustainable Use. The CBD needs a process to address impacts of synthetic biology on sustainable use of biodiversity.
5. Cartagena Protocol: Risk Assessment. Parties to the COP-MOP 8 need to clearly move forward with elaborating risk assessment guidance on synthetic biology.

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