02.05.2020 |

EPA Grants First Permit to Test Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Testing could start this summer in Florida Keys

Second test would be in heavily populated Houston

The EPA on Friday granted permission for genetically engineered mosquitoes to be released into the Florida Keys and around Houston to see if they can help limit the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses.

British biotech company Oxitec Ltd was granted an experimental use permit to release a genetically engineered type of the mosquito species Aedes aegypti, which is a known vector of Zika virus and viruses that cause yellow fever and dengue fever, the Environmental Protection Agency office of Chemical Safety and Pollution announced.

Oxitec must get state and local approval before it can start field testing. But if granted, testing will take place over a two-year period in Monroe County, Fla., starting this summer, and in Harris County, Texas, beginning in 2021.

30.04.2020 |

EFSA discusses risk assessment of gene drives

Testbiotech demands that ‘cut-off’ criteria are applied

30 April 2020 / The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) carried out a public consultation on guidance for the risk assessment of so-called gene drives at the request of the EU Commission. At the same time, a new Testbiotech scientific paper was accepted after peer review. The paper shows that the EFSA concept is insufficient. To control the risks of gene drives, ‘cut-off criteria’ need to be defined to prevent the uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms.

Gene drives are genetic elements which can spread much more widely than would normally be expected. In recent years, artificial gene constructs have been developed using the gene scissor CRISPR/Cas. Organisms, inheriting such gene constructs, are meant to be released and intended to spread rapidly, especially throughout wild populations. The goal is to replace or eradicate the targeted species. However, once started, the spread can no longer be effectively controlled. Damage to human health and the environment can be extensive.

Against this backdrop, EFSA is currently working on guidance for the risk assessment of mosquitoes which inherit genetically engineered gene drives. There are already proposals to use these mosquitoes to fight malaria in Africa: the plan is to eradicate those species which can transmit malaria via a mutagenic chain reaction, or replace them with mosquitoes that can no longer be a vector of the disease.

29.04.2020 |

Native Corn Is Now Protected as of Part of Mexico’s National Heritage

Many heritages take pride in the products, crops, and material goods they make and provide that are indigenous to their location. These products, at times, are stolen or dishonestly acquired by others and claimed as their own. Mexico, a country known for many indigenous goods, is taking measures to make sure that one very special crop is protected from plundering.

(.....)

The new bill seeks to guarantee the preservation and promotion of native Mexican corn varieties against competition from other countries who are trying to replicate modern hybrids and GMO (or genetically modified) corn. “Genetically modified corn” refers to varieties of corn that have been developed to be resistant to certain kinds of infestations and adverse climate conditions such as drought.

28.04.2020 |

Gene Drives at Tipping Points

Precautionary Technology Assessment and Governance of New Approaches to Genetically Modify Animal and Plant Populations

This open access book reports on a pilot project aiming at collecting information on the socio-ecological risks that could arise in the event of an uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms into the environment. The researchers will, for instance, be taking a closer look at genetically engineered oilseed rape, genetically engineered olive flies as well as plants and animals with so-called gene drives. The book mainly adresses researchers.

Arnim von Gleich1

Winfried Schröder2

1.Department of Technological Design and Development, Faculty Production EngineeringUniversity of BremenBremenGermany

2.Lehrstuhl für LandschaftsökologieUniversität VechtaVechtaGermany

27.04.2020 |

GeneTip project results published in full

New publication on technology assessment of gene drives

27 April 2020 / The GeneTip research project was a joint enterprise carried out from 2017 until 2019 by the Universities of Bremen and Vechta, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and Testbiotech, Munich. The researchers focused on risks associated with the spread of newly designed genetically engineered organisms into the environment. In particular, the project examined plants and animals with a so-called gene drive. The results have now been published in full by the Springer Publishing Company in a book titled “Gene Drives at Tipping Points“ (open access).

The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and coordinated by the University of Bremen (project code 01LC1724). The published results give a detailed overview of the technical characteristics of gene drives as well as associated risks.

Gene drives are designed to spread genetically engineered organisms rapidly through natural populations. In populations with sexual reproduction, genetic characteristics are normally distributed with a 50% probability to the offspring. The gene drive mechanism, however, interferes with process of natural inheritance, aiming to pass on new genetic information to almost 100% of following generations. There are ongoing debates about using gene drives to combat insects such as mosquitoes and fruit flies, or rodents such as mice and rats. The aim is to suppress or eradicate the target species within a region, or to replace it with genetically engineered populations.

24.04.2020 |

Citizens of the world, reclaim our seed!

Let us celebrate International Seed Day, not World Intellectual Property Day

#InternationalSeedDay

We are living in extraordinarily challenging times. The COVID-19 health crisis has fomented an economic crisis, and exposed the underlying risks, fragilities, and inequities in our food systems. It is essential for us to reclaim our seed diversity, biodiverse ecosystems and bio-cultural landscapes, that support nutritious local food systems and millions of livelihoods. In light of the pandemic, we demand the full protection and fulfillment of the rights of small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples across our planet.

On April 26th, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) celebrate the World Intellectual Property Day 2020 under the slogan “Innovate for a green future”.

25.03.2020 |

UPOV : Indeed, new GMOs can be accurately identified

Companies are claiming all around the world that nobody is able to differentiate between their new GMOs and plants that have acquired the same targeted mutation naturally or through traditional breeding methods. But a contrario they claim to be able to accurately characterize their own plant varieties by genetic tools, as evidenced by the work performed at the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). Fortunately, the same methods and tools are usable to differentiate new GMOs from non-GM plants, provided a political will exists to roll out the appropriate protocols.

17.03.2020 |

New report: strict regulation of new genomic techniques is scientifically necessary

Environmental impacts of CRISPR/Cas and its challenges for risk assessment

17 March 2020 / In a new report, Testbiotech provides an overview of the latest research developments in environmental risk assessment and new methods of genetic engineering (also known as ‘genome editing’ or ‘new genomic technicques’). The authors come to the conclusion there are imperative scientific reasons for all organisms derived from these new techniques to undergo mandatory risk assessment before they can be released or marketed. Therefore, regulation requirements foreseen by current GMO law in the EU must be mandatory whether or not additional DNA sequences are inserted. In addition, a broad range of ethical and social issues must be taken into account by the regulatory decision-makers.

The report focuses on possible impacts that new methods of genetic engineering (genome editing) can have on the environment. It is primarily concerned with CRISPR/Cas nucleases classified as ‘site directed nucleases’ SDN-1 and SDN -2. These applications are not meant to introduce additional gene sequences. Nevertheless, the pattern of intended and unintended changes and the resulting new combinations of genetic information arising from genome editing will, in most cases, be different in comparison to those derived from conventional breeding. These differences co-occur with biological characteristics and risks that need to be fully investigated before any conclusions on the safety of the new organisms can be drawn.

20.02.2020 |

Health, environment and climate are not negotiable

More than 100 civil society organisations demand a stop to trade talks with the US that will further endanger EU rules on health and the environment and aggravate the climate crisis. A change of course is needed.

We have followed the recent talks between the European Commission and the US authorities on a new trade agreement with disbelief and disappointment. It has become clear that the Commission is prepared to accommodate Trump’s demands for a reduction of EU food safety levels, to the detriment of public health, animal welfare and the environment, and also undermining EU commitments on climate change.

Fear of threats made by the US President to impose high tariffs on European cars cannot be an excuse for retreating on basic public interest. The apparent paradigm shift within the Commission, emerging after months of negotiating behind closed doors and largely shielded from public scrutiny, is highly alarming. We call on governments and parliamentarians in the EU to push the Commission to alter its course. It must be made clear to the US Administration that our public health and environmental protection levels are not for sale.

10.02.2020 |

French Council of State imposes strict application of European GMO legislation

Brussels, 10 February 2020 – France’s Council of State has ruled in favour of a coalition of associations, including the Confédération paysanne, who had mobilised against GMO, taking legal action against the French government.

The associations petitionned the court in 2015 over the then Prime Minister’s refusal to declare a moratorium on the cultivation in France of varieties made tolerant to herbicides, or to apply GMO regulations to all varieties obtained by new mutagenesis techniques.

Last week, the Council of State found in favour of the associations, ruling that organisms obtained using new mutagenesis techniques should be subject to European regulations on GMO, specifically European Directive of 12 March 2001 (2001/18/EC). In accordance with the precautionary principle, risk assessments should be carried out on GMO, which must also be subject to compulsory public information, labelling and monitoring requirements.

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