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Welcome to "Save Our Seeds"

‘Save Our Seeds’ (SOS) started as a European initiative in favor of the purity of seeds against genetically modified organisms (GMO) . The initiative was created in 2002 by the Foundation of Future Farming and since then advocates for a zero tolerance for contamination of seeds. Due to new developments in genetic engineering linked to the advent of CRISPR/Cas9, Save Our Seeds enlarged its focus and now also advocates for a GMO free nature.

Hundreds of organizations and some thousand citizens of the EU have become affiliated with Save Our Seeds’ many activities. Its projects strive to keep nature and agriculture free from genetic engineering and promote organic agriculture, biodiversity and food sovereignty.

SOS organizes the yearly GMO Free Regions conference, co-ordinates the European Stop Gene Drive Campaign,  the Bantam Mais action and is co-publisher of the Informationsdienst Gentechnik (GE Info Service). SOS was involved in the creation of the Weltagrarbericht (World Agriculture Report) and has shared its findings all over Germany. Together with many other organizations, SOS is responsible for the campaign “Meine Landwirtschaft – Unsere Wahl” (My Agriculture, Our Choice), engaged with the realignment of European agricultural policy after 2013.

With its campaigns and initiatives, SOS networks with different organizations, companies, politicians, scientists, farmers, and interested citizens; and wishes to lead a productive debate towards sustainable change.  

Petition handover: 300,000 EU citizens call on the German Minister for Environment Steffi Lemke: Stop Gene Drives!

Almost 300,000 EU citizens are petitioning EU environmental ministers to call for a global gene drive moratorium at the UN Biodiversity Convention conference planned for autumn. On 31st of May, the signatures were handed over to the German Minister of the Environment, Steffi Lemke, in Berlin.

The Minister took a clear stance and promised "of course" to stand up for the precautionary principle with regard to gene drives at the EU Conference of Ministers of the Environment in June. She encouraged campaigner Mareike Imken to continue working on the issue, as the debate on the use of gene drives will not end this autumn at the UN. 

Read more details in our press release and see our pictures of the petition handover on Twitter

J, as in “journey” - join our webinar today

1.06.2022

5:30-6:45 p.m. CET

 

This webinar is the tenth episode of the series of ten The Alphabet of Complexity webinars. The letter J (as in “journey”) will guide us through the main question of the day: How can we conclude our journey?

The key speakers of this webinar are the young members of the Save Our Seeds Collective – activists, artists, seed savers, researchers and gardeners based in Europe.

Register here to receive information reminders about all 10 webinars.

Join our webinar - I, as in "inspirations"!

28.05.2022 5:30-6:45 p.m. CET

This webinar is the ninth episode of the series of ten The Alphabet of Complexity webinars. The letter I (as in “inspirations”) will guide us through the main question of the day: What constitutes an effective campaign?

The key speakers of this webinar are Evelyn Leveghi and Martin Winiecki.

Evelyn Leveghi  is strategic and relational designer with a Human-centred approach. Her practice moves around Food Politics and Public space issues with the purpose of improving Livability and Social cohesion. To achieve such goals she uses Socially-engaged art, Participatory Design and Food Activism as levers to raise awareness and enhance empowerment. Project Manager of “Occupy the kitchen!”, a Food Artivism project – co-founded with Franca Formenti – questioning the relations among Art, Food and Economics.  She is currently engaged also in a FAO programme to develop an Agroecology platform conceived for facilitating the sharing of knowledge and strategies among the members of an international CoP. She is also author of “Pratiche relazionali del cibo” (lit. “Relational practices around food”), an essay edited by Postmediabooks (Milan, 2015).

Martin Winiecki, born in Germany in 1990, lives and works in the Tamera Peace Research & Education Center in Portugal, where he dedicates himself to the fields of publishing, networking and education. He was one of the leaders of a successful campaign to avert fossil fuel extraction in Portugal in 2017-18 and co-initiated the international "Defend the Sacred Alliance," which bring together leaders of Indigenous struggles, social movements and systemic alternatives in the inquiry of a more "sacred" activism.

Register here to receive information reminders about all 10 webinars.

Wednesday, 25.05.2022, 5:30 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. CET

This webinar is the eighth episode of the series of ten The Alphabet of Complexity webinars. The letter H (as in “holistic”) will guide us through the main question of the day: What factors should be taken into consideration in the battles to reclaim power over food systems in 2022?

The key speakers of this webinar are Christine von Weizsäcker, Benedikt Haerlin and Nina Holland.

 Christine von Weizsäcker, born and living in the Black Forest, 5 children, 13 grandchildren. Biologist, scientist/activist at local, national and international levels. President of Ecoropa, a European Network, since 1976 working for ecology, democracy and North-South justice. Many publications and some awards. Focus on technology assessment for civil society, in-situ and on-farm conservation of agricultural biodiversity, human rights, land tenure rights, rights to free prior informed consent and to meaningful participation, and fighting against corporate take-over of legislation and harmful and perverse subsidies. At international level, since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, participating in the UN sustainability negotiations, especially in the Convention on Biological Diversity, its Cartagena Protocol (regulating genetic engineering) and its Nagoya Protocol (regulating access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their utilization). Many disappointments, some surprising successes, still persevering.

Benedikt Haerlin heads the Berlin office of the Foundation on Future Farming (Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft). He co-ordinates the European initiative “Save our Seeds“, runs a “global field” of 2000 m² and co-chairs the thinktank ARC2020 on European agricultural policies. He represented northern NGOs in the board of the IAASTD. Before, he was an author and journalist, a Member of the European Parliament and worked for Greenpeace International.

Nina Holland is an activist-researcher and works with Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO). CEO is a research and campaign group based in Brussels that aims to expose and challenge the privileged access and power enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making. Nina's focus is on lobbying by agribusiness and food industries covering issues like pesticides, food labeling and GMOs. She holds a master's degree in Environmental Sciences from Utrecht University with a final thesis on the EU life patents directive.

Register HERE if you want to receive links to join the webinars.

 

 

The Alphabet of Complexity: G, as in GUARDIANS - join our webinar!

Wednesday, 18.05.2022, 5:30 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. CET

This webinar is the seventh episode of the series of ten The Alphabet of Complexity webinars. The letter G (as in “guardians”) will guide us through the main question of the day: What type of wisdom do we need to guard ecosystems from techno-fixes?

The key speakers of this webinar are Ignacio Chapela, Carsten Tiede and María Carrascosa.

Ignacio Chapela Associate Professor of Microbial Ecology, University of California, Berkeley Post-boom biologist, studied Biology at the National University of Mexico, under the aegis of barbasco, the source-plant for the first contraceptive and the birth of the biotechnology industry. PhD studying fungi in Wales led him to work in the industrial laboratory in Switzerland where LSD was discovered (not by him!) by following the teachings of indigenous people in Mexico. Back-and-forth across the Atlantic (Cornell University twice, ETH-Zürich, Norway) taught him large-scale dimensions of biology, such as politics, international policy over "genetic resources" and the brewing catastrophe of late-20th Century extinctions. He has worked with and for indigenous people in Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and elsewhere, as well as for various governmental, multilateral and non-governmental organizations. His work on transgenesis became defining of his professional life, and contributed to his current interest in asking foundational questions about a biology that, in his view, has been astray in the last 80 years.

Carsten Tiede - Senior Expert in Senior Experten Service, Plant Breeding Assistant in Keyserlingk-Institute, Biodynamic Adviser in Section for Agriculture, Mentor in European Consortium for Organic Plant Breeding (ECO-PB), Board Secretary in Paul Schatz Gesellschaft e.V. Member of IFOAM Organics International, Hortus officinarum e.V., Netzwerk Kräuter BW, Kultursaat e.V. and Bellis, Working group for Goetheanistic knowledge of plants.

 

María Carrascosa is an agronomic Engineer with Masters Degree in Organic Agriculture. For more than 15 years, she has focused her professional activity on the development of initiatives and actions in the framework of food sovereignty, agroecology, agricultural biodiversity, family farming and short supply channels, in Spain but also in other countries as Brazil. In this sense, it must be highlighted her work as manager in a cooperative of organic farmers in the south of Spain for 6 years and, since 2005, as coordinator of the Red de Semillas “Resembrando e Intercambiando” (Spanish seed network). Since 2010, she is the director of the Seed network of Andalucía where she coordinates different projects working on the promotion and research on the collective management of cultivated biodiversity.

 

Register here to receive information reminders about all 10 webinars.

 

 

F, as in “fatal”

Saturday, 14.05.2022, 5:30 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. CET

This webinar is the sixth episode of the series of ten The Alphabet of Complexity webinars. The letter F (as in “fatal”) will guide us through the main question of the day: Can gene drives lead to the extinction of whole species?

 

The key speakers of this webinar are Selina Tenzer and Diego Bárcena.

 

Selina Tenzer studied soil science at the University of Hohenheim in Germany and works for different agricultural projects in Berlin and Brandenburg.

Diego Bárcena Menéndez holds a PhD in synthetic biology in eukaryotic systems from the EMBL-CRG in Barcelona and Imperial College London. After working for years as a scientific researcher, he decided to start up an organic farm in Northern Spain. He is a member of Ecologistas en Acción and part of the editorial board for the print magazine of the organization.

Register here to receive information reminders about all 10 webinars.

 

Or join directly this zoom link: us06web.zoom.us/j/84549429776

 

 

Wednesday, 11.05.2022, 5:30 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. CET

This webinar is the fifth episode of the series of ten The Alphabet of Complexity webinars. The letter E (as in “experience”) will guide us through the main question of the day: What can the history of fighting against GMOs teach us?

 

The key speakers of this webinar are Martha Mertens and Benedikt Haerlin.

Dr. Martha Mertens. Studied biology at the University of Munich and at Reed College, Portland/Oregon, received her PhD at the University of Munich. Main subjects: developmental biology, cytology, and genetics. Additional degree of environmental protection techniques at the Technical University of Munich. Professional work in environmental education and with non-governmental organisations. Freelance expert on genetic engineering, in particular on use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture and food production. In the nineties member of the German central commission for biosafety (Zentrale Kommission für die Biologische Sicherheit ZKBS) as representative of environmental organisations. Member of the Institute for Biodiversity Network, Regensburg/Germany. Publications e.g. on risk assessment of GMOs, environmental impacts of herbicide-resistant plants and on environmental effects of glyphosate. Since the nineties volunteer work at BUND/FoEE Germany, speaker of the working group on genetic engineering of BUND/FoEE Germany.

Benedikt Haerlin heads the Berlin office of the Foundation on Future Farming (Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft). He co-ordinates the European initiative “Save our Seeds“, runs a “global field” of 2000 m² and co-chairs the thinktank ARC2020 on European agricultural policies. He represented northern NGOs in the board of the IAASTD. Before, he was an author and journalist, a Member of the European Parliament and worked for Greenpeace International.

Register here to receive information reminders about all 10 webinars.

 

Or join directly this zoom link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84549429776

If you want to watch the recordings of the previous webinars, you can find the links here.

 

 

Saturday, 7.05.2022, 5:30 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. CET

This webinar is our fourth meeting within the series of ten The Alphabet of Complexity webinars. The letter D (as in “deconstructing”) will guide us through the main question of the day: What are the realities and narratives within molecular biology?

The key speakers of this webinar are Angelika Hilbeck and Ignacio Chapela.

Angelika Hilbeck is a senior scientist and lecturer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, where she leads the group ‘Environmental Biosafety and Agroecology’ at the Institute of Intergrative Biology. Since almost 30 years, her research focuses on biosafety and risk assessment of GMOs in the context of agroecology and biodiversity. Through numerous research and capacity building projects she has been engaged in several developing countries in Africa, South America and Vietnam. Her research and conceptual work also contribute to the implementation and shaping of EU Directives regulating the biosafety assessment of GMOs for field and commercial releases, the (UNEP CBD) Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and capacity building in developing countries. Through her international work, she became involved in broader issues of technology developments (genetic engineering, digitalization) towards a democratically legitimated, sustainable global future and actively contributes to the debate on biosafety, digitalization, sustainability issues, agroecological transformation, hunger and poverty alleviation. In 2006, she was appointed as lead author of the Global Chapter 3 and Synthesis Report on Biotechnology of the International Assessment Agricultural Science Technology for Development (IAASTD), a UN-funded and lead global project. She is co-founder and past chairperson of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), co-founder and board member of Critical Scientists Switzerland (CSS) and a former member of the board of directors of the Swiss development organisation 'Bread for All' (now HEKS) and the Federation of German Scientists (VDW).

 

Ignacio Chapela Associate Professor of Microbial Ecology, University of California, Berkeley Post-boom biologist, studied Biology at the National University of Mexico, under the aegis of barbasco, the source-plant for the first contraceptive and the birth of the biotechnology industry. PhD studying fungi in Wales led him to work in the industrial laboratory in Switzerland where LSD was discovered (not by him!) by following the teachings of indigenous people in Mexico. Back-and-forth across the Atlantic (Cornell University twice, ETH-Zürich, Norway) taught him large-scale dimensions of biology, such as politics, international policy over "genetic resources" and the brewing catastrophe of late-20th Century extinctions. He has worked with and for indigenous people in Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and elsewhere, as well as for various governmental, multilateral and non-governmental organizations. His work on transgenesis became defining of his professional life, and contributed to his current interest in asking foundational questions about a biology that, in his view, has been astray in the last 80 years.

 

Register here to receive information reminders about all 10 webinars.

 

Or join directly this zoom link: us06web.zoom.us/j/84549429776

Wednesday, 27. Apr. 5:30 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. CET

 

This webinar is our third meeting within the series of ten The Alphabet of Complexity webinars. The letter C (as in “corporate power”) will guide us through the main question of the day: How the reductionist vision of science is used in corporate techno-fixes?

The key speakers of this webinar are Justyna Zwolinska and Andrea Beste.

 

Register here to receive information reminders about all 10 webinars.

Or join directly this zoom link: us06web.zoom.us/j/84549429776

 

 

 

Sa. 23. Apr. 5:30pm - 6:45pm

This webinar is our second meeting within the series of ten The Alphabet of Complexity webinars. The letter B (as in “biodiversity”) will guide us through the main question of the day: How do plants and ecosystems naturally adapt and how do agroecology practitioners use this phenomenon?

 The key speakers of this webinar are Salvatore Ceccarelli, Annika Michelson.

Salvatore Ceccarelli has been full professor of Agricultural Genetics at the Institute of Plant Breeding, University of Perugia. From 1980 has conducted research at ICARDA (the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, Aleppo, Syria) and currently is consulting for both International and National Organizations. He supervised several MSc and PhD students, trained scientists in China, Australia, South Africa, Philippines, Yemen, Jordan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, India and Bhutan. published more than 300 papers and has been an invited speaker at several international conferences. He is currently involved in projects in Uganda, Ethiopia, Jordan, Iran, Nepal, Bhutan and Europe. His areas of expertise are plant breeding, genotype x environment interactions, breeding strategies, drought resistance, participatory and evolutionary plant breeding, crop adaptation, use of genetic resources and relationships between biodiversity, food, health and climate change.

Annika Michelson is a board member of NGO Maadjas - Estonian seed saver organisation and a senior lecturer at Häme University of Applied Sciences in Finland, where she coordinates the Finnish Heritage Cereals Propagation Network.

 

Register here to receive information reminders about all 10 webinars.

Or join directly this zoom link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84549429776

 

Deregulation of EU's GMO legislation?

The move had been expected: On 24 September, the European Commission officially proposed to fundamentally change the EU's genetic engineering law: Certain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are to be exempted from the current risk assessment and labelling requirements. To this end, they are given new names such as "new genomic techniques", "targeted mutagenesis" and "cisgenesis" and would no longer require genetic engineering approval. Three years ago, the European Court of Justice clearly classified these products of new genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR/Cas as GMOs. As a result, the EU Commission now proposes to change the law under which the court ruled. The exceptions now proposed are only the beginning. This is a good reason to lodge your first objection to this plan by 22 October. Please get involved!

"There are good reasons to think about a review of the authorisation procedures and risk assessments of GMOs thirty years after their adoption," commented Benny Haerlin of Save Our Seeds, "however, the proposal we now have before us is neither scientifically valid nor open to improvement. It seems to be aimed solely at lowering safety standards and undermining the foundations of the safety philosophy of the GMO Directive. Instead of prudent adaptation to technical developments, this is apparently only about adapting to the interests of the genetic engineering industry." He sees indications of this in the Commission's biased interpretation of statements by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and in a scientifically incomprehensible casuistry according to which the intended effects of certain genetic manipulations substantially reduce their "risk profile" compared to other manipulations. Put simply, the point is that mutations of individual base pairs in the DNA of organisms occur constantly in nature. However, deliberately inducing these mutations with the help of a specially created search and cutting system (CRISPR/Cas) implanted into the cell using classical genetic engineering methods, and repeating this process as often as needed to "rewrite" the DNA according to one's own blueprint, is quite obviously no longer a natural process. Rather, the process has enormous potential for rapid and far-reaching genetic changes with significant effects. Scientists, biotechnologists and genetic engineering companies are keen to stress this as an innovation potential. It is obvious that this also entails new risks. This applies to intended effects such as the production of new proteins and ingredients, toxic effects on "enemies" or the adaptation to new ecological conditions (e.g. heat, flood or drought), which creates competitive advantages. However, it also applies to a wide range of unintended effects. These start with the targeted mutations also taking place in other parts of the genome, where they can cause unnoticed changes or are not quite so controllable but can be transferred to other organisms. And it ends with the fact that the introduction of certain characteristics into an ecosystem can have entirely unforeseen consequences on the complex interactions between plants, microorganisms and animals. There are scientifically well-documented examples of all these effects, making a case-by-case, step-by-step risk analysis advisable. On the other hand, there is no scientific prove that certain risks only exist when DNA is transferred from a foreign organism or are only starting with a definable length of the modified DNA section. A particular proposal by the EU Commission sounds very sensible at first glance: in future assessments, not only the risks but also the opportunities for sustainability and the environment should be evaluated. On closer inspection, however, it turns out that this is only to be related to certain technologies, but not to possible alternatives, and that it is essentially to suffice to cite possible environmental benefits, without their feasibility, the context and a system enabling comparability. Unrealised promises, such as the reduction of pesticides (the opposite was demonstrably the effect) or cultivation under more difficult conditions, have been paving the way for genetic engineering in agriculture for more than three decades, and practically none of them have been fulfilled so far. It would devaluate assessing positive and negative socio-economic and ecological effects beyond the classical risk assessment from the outset if it is only to be developed and used to accelerate the introduction of individual technologies. The Commission's proposal can be seen as a kick-off for the hot phase of a new debate on the use of genetic engineering in agriculture, the environment and food, which has been prepared by agrochemical corporations and technology interest groups for years. It will possibly last for years.


Majority of European citizens rejects genetic engineering of wild species

Should humanity release genetically engineered gene drive organisms into nature?
An alliance of European NGOs commissioned a representative opinion poll to determine how the European population evaluates gene drive technologyand how well known the issue is.The response of a majority of citizens in eight European countries is: “No, the risks are too high”. This first opinion poll on the subject shows high levels of opposition to (46% - 70%) and very low levels of support for (7% - 16%) the use of gene drive technology in the environment. 

The survey of nearly 9,000 people is representative of 280 million EU citizens from eight EU countries. It was commissioned by nine NGOs demanding an informed and inclusive public debate and a global moratorium on the environmental release of this new type of genetically modified organisms. The survey also reveals that a large proportion of respondents were still undecided (14% - 27%) or did not know how to answer (1% - 24%). For more information on gene drives and all other results of the survey, please see the links below.

The Press release of the gene drive survey at EU level 

To the full survey with all results here


08.09.2022 |

Gene editing is not “precision breeding” – international scientists and policy experts

UK government and EU lobbyists are misleading policymakers, regulators, and the public. Report by Claire Robinson

A group of 56 international scientists and policy experts have published a statement opposing the use of the term “precision breeding” to describe gene or genome editing, on the grounds that it is “technically and scientifically inaccurate and therefore misleads Parliament, regulators, and the public”.

12.07.2022 |

10 things the food sector needs to know about New GMOs: number 2

The main differences between targeted mutagenesis (=new GMOs) and conventional breeding

Targeted mutagenesis is the term for new GMOs that are produced with new genetic engineering methods, such as CRISPR/Cas, TALENs and others. As a rule of thumb no genetic material from other species is permanently integrated.

Targeted mutagenesis is the term for new GMOs that are produced with new genetic engineering methods, such as CRISPR/Cas, TALENs and others. As a rule of thumb no genetic material from other species is permanently integrated.

30.06.2022 |

Biased questions and flawed assumptions

How the EU Commission and EFSA are paving the way for deregulation of New GE

30 June 2022 / Testbiotech recently participated in an European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) consultation on guidelines for the risk assessment of ‘cisgenic’ plants, which ended at the beginning of this week. The ‘cisgenic’ plants are genetically engineered, but, in contrast to transgenic plants, contain no genetic material from other species. EFSA suggests that most applications of CRISPR/Cas can be put into this category. The consultation is, therefore, generally relevant to the risk assessment of plants derived from New GE (also called new genomic techniques, NGT). However, the way in which EFSA deals with this issue appears to be completely inadequate.

25.06.2022 |

No Environmental Release of Gene Drive Organisms

By Stop Gene Drives Campaign, Save Our Seeds, Germany; Terre a Vie, Burkina Faso; Third World Network; African Biodiversity Network (ABN); Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya (BIBA Kenya).

Gene drive technology uses new genetic engineering techniques including CRISPR/Cas9 to forcibly spread genetically engineered traits, including lethal ones, throughout entire populations and species, overriding natural rules of inheritance so that nearly 100% of offspring inherit the genetically engineered trait.

25.04.2022 |

World Malaria Day 2022: What risks are we willing to take to (maybe) end malaria?

While this disease affects one third of the world’s population, some scientists suggest that a new technology called gene drive could be a game-changer.

Gene Drives – manipulating the DNA of mosquitoes to pass down an extinction gene

The research consortium Target Malaria, mostly funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Philanthropy Fund, is developing genetically engineered mosquitoes in the lab that would either make all offspring male or all female offspring infertile. They use the Crispr-Cas methodology to implant a system into their DNA that would replicate when mosquitoes mate, ensuring that this gene spreads throughout the wild mosquito population. But while some hope that this would be the magic bullet to suppress mosquitoe populations and stop the malaria transmission cycle, this currently unproven high risk technology poses fundamental questions for humanity: How far are we willing to go, how high can the risks and uncertainties be in order to test a hypothesis?

The Risks of Gene Drive mosquitoes

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