Save Our Seeds Flyer

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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.  

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

08.10.2021 |

Mexico quietly rejects application for GMO corn imports

For the first time, Mexico’s health safety regulator Cofepris has rejected a new variety of GMO corn, the head of the country’s National Farm Council (CNA) told Reuters. While Mexico has never permitted commercial cultivation of GMO corn, it has for decades allowed imports of such varieties that are largely used for feed. Mexico is a major market for U.S. exports of the corn, importing more than 16 MMT of primarily GMO corn from the U.S. in 2020.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador issued a decree late last year that would ban use of both glyphosate and GMO corn for human consumption by 2024, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty as to whether the GMO ban would also apply to livestock feed.

04.10.2021 |

Switzerland extends its GMO moratorium, explicitly covering gene-edited GM plants

National Council must report on coexistence and liability in the event of GMO contamination within four years

The Swiss National Council (lower house of the Swiss Federal Assembly, the parliament of Switzerland) has extended the moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified plants in agriculture by another four years until the end of 2025. The vote to extend the moratorium was carried by 144 votes to 27, with 19 abstentions.

Applications from some members of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Green Liberal Party (GLP) to exempt gene editing technologies from the moratorium were rejected.

09.09.2021 |

Supporting Peasants’ and Indigenous People’s Realization of Their Right to Seed

Peasants and Indigenous Peoples feed more than 70 percent of the world and are key agents in the preservation of biocultural diversity in food systems. The importance of seeds, traditional knowledge and innovations have been increasingly recognized as crucial factors in efforts to stop the rapid loss of biodiversity.

Currently, peasants and Indigenous Peoples’ food systems and seed management practices are threatened by industrially-produced food, restrictive seed laws, intellectual property claims and gene modification. The expansion of industrial agriculture has come with a dramatic decrease of agricultural biodiversity.

06.09.2021 |

Farming Today - Report suggests less regulation for gene edited crops, livestock selective breeding

Released On: 06 Sep 2021Available for 29 days

Growing genetically edited crops has moved another step closer to being a reality in England with a new report for the government on how new regulations could work. The Regulatory Horizon Council, an independent committee which advises government, suggests a ‘light touch’ approach which would treat GE crops more like conventionally grown ones and so reduce the time and cost of getting permission for new products. Anti GM campaigners say the report is disappointing and misrepresentative. For centuries livestock farmers have been fine tuning breeding. In the past it was about finding the tastiest meat or the best fleeces. Now, modern breeding methods can help reduce the risk of disease, boost profits and even help cut the carbon footprint of farming. This week we’re all about animal breeding and to kick us off we hear from Professor Mike Coffey, Leader of Animal Breeding and Genomics at SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College.

06.09.2021 |

Groups slam Commission plans to deregulate new GMOs

Commission reportedly aims to exempt some new GMOs from safety regulations within four years and change regulation for all new GMOs within 10 years

In April this year the European Commission's health division DG SANTE published a "working document" in which it announced that the EU's GMO regulations are "not fit for purpose". The Commission made suggestions that could lead to crop plants produced using experimental new GM techniques such as gene editing being exempted from the requirements of the regulation. This could mean that these crop plants would not be subjected to safety checks, GMO labelling, or traceability and monitoring requirements.

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