20.07.2020 |

Conflicts of interest plague GM mosquito experiments

Journal refuses to publish scientist’s defence of his paper warning of unexpected outcomes from GM mosquitoes release. Report: Claire Robinson

As the citizens of Florida and Texas prepare to act as subjects in an experiment in which millions of Oxitec's genetically modified mosquitoes would be released in their states, a scandal has emerged around a journal's treatment of a scientific article that drew attention to unanticipated outcomes and risks of the project.

09.07.2020 |

The EU must not de-regulate gene-edited crops and foods

Some members of the outgoing EU Commission and the agbiotech lobby want the regulations governing genetically modified crops and foods relaxed or scrapped to open markets for gene-edited products. But this goes against the science underpinning the technology and could put the public and environment at risk, writes Dr Michael Antoniou.

Dr Michael Antoniou is molecular geneticist at King’s College London

Some members of the outgoing European Commission want to change the EU legislation on genetically modified (GM) foods and crops to accommodate the products of new gene-editing techniques, often called “new plant breeding techniques” or NBTs.

Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said DG SANTE “has already prepared the ground for a new initiative on gene editing to overhaul the current GMO legislation”. The “initiative” will be taken up by the new Commission after this year’s elections.

07.07.2020 |

Groups warn against release of genetically-engineered mosquitoes in Nigeria

Over 75 Civil Society Organizations from Nigeria, Africa and the world have condemned moves to open the way for the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Nigeria.

Their condemnation follows a recent call by the West African Integrated Vector Management Programme and the National Biosafety Management Agency for the fast track the introduction of genetically based vector control methods such as transgenic mosquitoes into Nigeria.

Reacting, the coalition in a statement warned against the introduction of the transgenic mosquitoes, genetically modified vectors or other unproven technologies into Nigeria as such releases would pose serious risks to humans, the nations’ biodiversity and its ecosystem balance.

07.07.2020 |

Genome Editing in Food and Farming: Risks and Unexpected Consequences

The report provides an overview of the new genetic engineering techniques of genome editing being explored in agriculture, and the range of risks and potential unexpected consequences that can arise from them.

The purpose of our report is to support public discussions about the possible implications of using genetic engineering in food and farming. How should new genetic engineering technologies be used, and how should decisions about them be made?

02.07.2020 |

No patents on genetically engineered chimpanzees!

Huge success for animal welfare coalition and environmental organisations

Thursday, 2 July 2020

The European Patent Office (EPO) has for ethical reasons now declared two patents on genetically engineered chimpanzees to be no longer valid. All claims on genetically engineered animals have to be removed from the patents concerned. The Technical Board of Appeal at the EPO decided in favour of oppositions and appeals filed by a broad coalition of animal welfare and environmental organisations. European patent law prohibits patents on the genetic engineering of animals if it is likely to cause animal suffering. Exceptions are only made if there is real evidence of substantial medical benefit. According to the EPO, no such benefit was shown. It is the first time that the EPO has interpreted this rule so strictly. The decision is also binding for other cases.

30.06.2020 |

Gene Drive technology: Species extinction through genetic engineering?

Stop Gene Drives
Stop Gene Drives

In an open letter initiated by Greenpeace EU, Friends of the Earth Europe, IFOAM EU and the German initiative Save Our Seeds, 78 environmental, agricultural, animal welfare and development aid organizations from all over Europe are calling on the EUCommission to outlaw the release of so-called Gene Drive Organisms in the EU and internationally.

Enabled by the genetic engineering method CRISPR/CAS9, mosquitoes, mice, fruit flies and other organisms can be manipulated in the laboratory to pass on a certain trait and the mechanism for genetic manipulation to all offspring and across generations. In this way, Gene Drive Organisms can replace their relatives in nature. The Gene Drive trait also asserts itself when it is deadly to the survival of the species – thereby ovveridingthe normal rules of evolutionary selection. 

09.06.2020 |

CRISPR-edited rice shows wide range of unintended mutations

Gene-editing tool "not as precise as expected", say researchers in new study. Report: Claire Robinson

CRISPR gene editing in rice varieties caused a wide range of undesirable and unintended on-target and off-target mutations, according to an important new study authored by a Chinese and Australian team of scientists and published in the Journal of Genetics and Genomics.[1]

The researchers were trying to improve the yield of already high-performing varieties of rice by disrupting the function of a "green revolution" semi-dwarfing gene (SD1). They used a stable transformation method that ensured that the CRISPR editing tool remained active in the plants over four generations, so that they could examine the effects over time.

08.06.2020 |

Don't de-regulate risky gene editing, scientists tell Eustice

Amendment to the Agriculture Bill without full Commons debate is "violation of the political process that is not acceptable in a parliamentary democracy"

A group of MPs, peers and the GMO research establishment is urging the government to introduce genome editing into UK food and farming by sidestepping parliamentary and public scrutiny, as Pat Thomas and Lawrence Woodward of Beyond GM recently reported.

(.....)

If adopted, the Amendment would open the door to the deregulation of genetically engineered crops and animals produced using gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR.

The Amendment has not been debated in the Commons and its attachment to the Bill at this late stage of its passage through Parliament appears to be a blatant attempt to avoid a full and open debate on a crucial issue with widespread implications for the farming and food sector and consumer choice.

Now two scientists familiar with gene-editing technologies have written an Open Letter to George Eustice asking him to reject the Amendment and not propose it to the Lords.

08.06.2020 |

Seed savers across Australia are supporting their communities during the coronavirus pandemic

When COVID-19 panic-buying caused a national run on commercial seedlings, a movement of backyard "seed savers" sprang into action to help — and some are now looking to establish greater stocks, in case they are needed again.

Seed savers networks exist throughout Australia and the world — and are often comprised of urban farmers, and balcony and backyard growers.

Their mission is to create a "living bank" of seeds, genetically wired to thrive in particular conditions, and to reduce the need to buy seeds at all, by preserving open-pollinated and heritage varieties that will produce identical plants year-on-year.

In contrast, commercial seedlings are typically not bred to reproduce.

29.05.2020 |

Profiting from health and ecological crisis in Africa: The Target Malaria project and new risky GE technologies

Second-generation GMOs produced from gene drive technologies, genome editing, paratransgenesis and cisgenesis are increasing the scope, scale, depth and flexibility of interventions that can be performed by the biotech industry, including genetically engineering of wild populations and ecosystems. Research and development (R&D) projects are largely financed by European and North American institutions; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); and the US military research arm – the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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