Save Our Seeds

Saatgut ist die Grundlage unserer Ernährung. Es steht am Anfang und am Ende eines Pflanzenlebens. Die Vielfalt und freie Zugänglichkeit dieses Menschheitserbes zu erhalten, das von Generation zu Generation weitergegeben wird, ist die Aufgabe von Save Our Seeds.

Foto:
Ursula Schulz-Dornburg

22.01.2019 |

Gene drive mosquitoes and the new era of medical colonialism

African governments are selling out to agribusiness and US military interests, say Mariam Mayet, Lim Li Ching and Eva Sirinathsinghji

The highly contentious issue of gene drive technologies – a novel extreme form of genetic engineering designed to alter or even eradicate entire populations and species – was at the heart of the international negotiations at the biennial UN Biodiversity Conference held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2018.

On the pretext of supporting scientific innovation for malaria eradication on the African continent, the African Group vociferously defended a techno-fix that does not address the wider determinants of malaria. It loudly supported the latest experiment to be tested on African people – gene drive mosquitoes, which represent the changing face of colonial medicine on the continent.

Consensus on implementing a proposed moratorium on the release of gene drive organisms was not reached due to opposition from many biotech-friendly countries, which included the African Group of Nations – one of five regional negotiating blocs – which strongly advocated for the advancement of gene drive technology. This represents a stark shift away from the African Group’s historical position of being leading defenders of precaution against new technologies that may pose risks to biodiversity and the socio-economic status of their citizens.

In contrast, the global community was acutely concerned about the release of such organisms and their impacts on biodiversity, ecological systems, human health and society.

20.01.2019 |

35,000 Hit Streets of Berlin to Demand Agricultural Revolution

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals, and rural farmers.

Many held placards reading "Eating is political" at the action in Berlin, which coincided with the so-called "Green Week" agricultural fair.

The protest also featured a procession of 170 farmers driving tractors to the rally at the Brandenburg Gate.

19.01.2019 |

German farmers protest agro-industry, back healthy foods

BERLIN -- Thousands of farmers from across Germany and their supporters have protested at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate, calling for climate-friendly agriculture and healthy food.

Organizers say 170 tractors drove in from farms around the country to join 35,000 other protesters for the Saturday demonstration under the motto "we are fed up with the agricultural industry."

17.01.2019 |

AXE EU FUNDS for argo-industries!

We are fed-up 2019
Call to Action for 19 January 2019

Stand up for low-impact farming, animal welfare, climate justice and good food!

Climate-friendly agriculture, good food and the continuation of small-scale, community-based farming is at stake! In 2019, the German government takes part in decisions that will determine the future of EU agriculture. The EU CAP reform (Common Agricultural Policy) will define what type of agriculture benefits from €60 billion in EU subsidies every year. Under current rules, those owning most land receive most money, regardless of their farming methods. This must end! We cannot continue to prop up agro-industries with public funds.

The transformation of our farming system towards sustainable farming cannot wait. With our pots and pans we sound the alarm for sustainable farming and call on the German government to support only those who are willing to convert their farms to climate-, nature- and animal-friendly farming with public funds.

(.....)

You vote with what you eat!

In our cities and rural communities, we show we can do better. More and more farmers are producing food without pesticides and GMOs, and invest in the welfare of their animals. More people take part in foodsharing, community-supported agriculture and choose locally produced food. Together we vote with our wallets and raise our forks for a farming revolution: for diversity, equality and sustainability – and against discrimination, exploitation and fear!

13.01.2019 |

Bound to fail: The flawed scientific foundations of agricultural genetic engineering

Half a century on from the first promises of wondercrops, GM has delivered little of value – and the same will be true of the new gene-edited GMOs, says researcher Dr Angelika Hilbeck

The GMO food venture is bound to fail because it is based on flawed scientific foundations. This was the message of a public talk given by Dr Angelika Hilbeck, researcher at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and a board member and co-founder of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), on the evening before the 9th GMO Free Europe conference in Berlin this September.

Dr Hilbeck's talk introduced a panel discussion with four other scientists: Prof Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher of Econexus; Dr Sarah Agapito-Tenfen of Genøk Centre for Biosafety, Norway; and Prof Ignacio Chapela of the University of California Berkeley. The entire discussion can be viewed here.

Below is our summary of Dr Hilbeck's talk, given from her perspective as an ecologist. This article will be followed by a second commentary on the same theme by the London-based molecular geneticist Dr Michael Antoniou, this time from the standpoint of molecular biology.

11.01.2019 |

The Sobering Details Behind the Latest Seed Monopoly Chart

Updated seed monopoly chart
As four seed companies now control more than 60 percent of the global market, a seed policy expert argues that consolidation poses major risks to our food supply.

When Philip Howard of Michigan State University published the first iteration of his now well-known seed industry consolidation chart in 2008, it starkly illustrated the extent of acquisitions and mergers of the previous decade: Six corporations dominated the majority of the brand-name seed market, and they were starting to enter into new alliances with competitors that threatened to further weaken competition.

Howard’s newly updated seed chart is similar but even starker. It shows how weak antitrust law enforcement and oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has allowed a handful of firms to amass enormous market, economic, and political power over our global seed supply. The newest findings show that the Big 6 (Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer, and BASF) have consolidated into a Big 4 dominated by Bayer and Corteva (a new firm created as a result of the Dow–DuPont merger), and rounded out with ChemChina and BASF. These four firms control more than 60 percent of global proprietary seed sales.

Howard began his annual tracking of seed industry ownership changes in 1998, a year that served as a turning point for industry consolidation. Two years after genetically engineered (GE) varieties were introduced in 1996, by 1998 the large agribusiness companies had accelerated their consolidation by buying up smaller firms to accumulate more intellectual property (IP) rights. By 2008, Monsanto’s patented genetics alone were planted on 80 percent of U.S. corn acres, 86 percent of cotton acres, and 92 percent of soybean acres. Today, these percentages are even higher.

20.12.2018 |

European Court of Justice ruling regarding new genetic engineering methods scientifically justified: a commentary on the biased reporting about the recent ruling

Eva Gelinsky and Angelika HilbeckEmail author

Environmental Sciences Europe201830:52

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-018-0182-9© The Author(s) 2018

Received: 1 October 2018Accepted: 5 December 2018Published: 20 December 2018

In July 2018, the European Court of Justice (Case C-528/16) ruled that organisms obtained by directed mutagenesis techniques are to be regarded as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within the meaning of Directive 2001/18. The ruling marked the next round of the dispute around agricultural genetic engineering in Europe. Many of the pros and cons presented in this dispute are familiar from the debate around the first generation of genetic engineering techniques. The current wave of enthusiasm for the new genetic engineering methods, with its claim to make good on the failed promises of the previous wave, seems to point more to an admission of failure of the last generation of genetic engineering than to a true change of paradigm. Regulation is being portrayed as a ban on research and use, which is factually incorrect, and the judges of the European Court of Justice are being defamed as espousing “pseudoscience”. Furthermore, this highly polarised position dominates the media reporting of the new techniques and the court’s ruling. Advocates of the new genetic engineering techniques appear to believe that their benefits are so clear that furnishing reliable scientific evidence is unnecessary. Meanwhile, critics who believe that the institution of science is in a serious crisis are on the increase not just due to the cases of obvious documented scientific misconduct by companies and scientists, but also due to the approach of dividing the world into those categorically for or against genetic engineering. In this construct of irreconcilable opposites, differentiations fall by the wayside. This article is a response to this one-sided and biased reporting, which often has the appearance of spin and lacks journalistic ethics that require journalists to report on different positions in a balanced and factual manner instead of taking positions and becoming undeclared advocates themselves.

19.12.2018 |

Gene-drive organisms: Cutting Corners on Consent

A new UN agreement requires organizations seeking to release gene-drive organisms – which will fundamentally change or even eliminate entire populations of that species – to obtain the “free, prior, and informed consent” of potentially affected communities. But what that requirement implies needs to be spelled out – before it's too late.

MONTRÉAL – On November 29, after two weeks of contentious negotiations at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, 196 countries agreed to stringent rules on the use of so-called gene drives. Given the far-reaching consequences of a technology that causes a particular set of genes to propagate throughout a population – fundamentally changing or even eliminating it – such rules are badly needed. But are they enough?

(.....)

Target Malaria is soon scheduled to begin implementing a plan in West and Central Africa to release genetically modified “male sterile” (non-gene-drive) mosquitoes in the villages of Bana and Sourkoudingan in Burkina Faso, as a first step toward eventually releasing drive-modified mosquitos. The goal is to reduce the population of the species that transmit the parasite that causes malaria.

But it remains far from clear that Target Malaria has acquired anything close to the villages’ “free, prior, and informed consent.” To be sure, Target Malaria has issued videos of local people who support the project and introduced reporters to them. But when I traveled independently of Target Malaria to meet local communities that would be affected, I heard a very different story, which I recount in a short film.

19.12.2018 |

Glyphosate and Bt Proteins Toxic to Stingless Bees

Brazil is the second largest producer of genetically modified (GM) plants in the world. This agricultural practice exposes native pollinators to contact and ingestion of Bacillus thuringiensis proteins (e.g. Cry toxins) from transgenic plants. Furthermore, native bees are also exposed to various herbicides applied to crops, including glyphosate.

Various bee species are suffering large population declines. Stingless bees are important wild pollinators which have a life history which makes them more susceptible to the effects of agrochemicals, compared to other bees.

A study found that the Bt proteins Cry1F and Cry2Aa, and glyphosate were highly toxic to the stingless bee M. quadrifasciata, causing lethal or sublethal effects which can severely impair colony growth and viability, and reduce pollination ability. Glyphosate was very toxic to the bee larvae, killing all of them within only a few days of exposure while bees treated with Cry2Aa and Cry1F proteins were delayed in their development.

This study underscores the need for further research to establish trustworthy methods of assessing the risks of glyphosate and Cry proteins for non-target species.

07.12.2018 |

Gene drive symposium

Interdisciplinary symposium on gene drives with a focus on their scientific, ethical, socio-economic and regulatory aspects

FRIDAY 24 MAY 2019

9:00―17:00 Eventforum Bern Fabrikstrasse 12

3012 Bern, Switzerland

The idea of circumventing the rules of inheritance in order to quickly spread and maintain desired traits through an entire population or species, has long existed. With new genetic engineering techniques for genome editing, such as CRISPR-Cas9, it may soon be possible to turn this idea into reality. It has been claimed that gene drive technology may be used to combat infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue or zika, as well as to reduce the threat posed by agricultural pests and ecologically harmful invasive species. However, a crucial difference with conventional gene technology is that gene drives intentionally target wild populations in order to permanently alter them.

Gene drives are a technology that raises fundamental ecological, social, ethical, and legal questions:

* Which path do we want to take as a society?

* Is it a good idea to seek to irreversibly alter ecosystems in the age of mass extinctions?

* Are there dispensable species?

* Are the promised goals achievable?

* Who gets to decide?

* What environmental implications could we face if we were to eliminate populations or species using gene drives?

* What are the consequences of making such attempts if they are unsuccessful?

* Who is responsible when things go wrong with a technology that potentially crosses borders?

* Are the appropriate regulations in place?

A working group of international scientists and philosophers has extensively considered these questions. The outcome of this process will be presented for discussion at the Gene Drive Symposium.

SPEAKERS

Lim Li Ching, Third World Network

Christopher Preston, University of Montana

Ricarda Steinbrecher, Federation of German Scientists (VDW)

Helen Wallace, GeneWatch UK

PANEL DISCUSSION

Kevin Esvelt, MIT Media Lab

Ignacio Chapela, University of California, Berkeley

PANEL MODERATION

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Honorary president, Club of Rome

More information at: https://genedrives.ch

European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility

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