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

12.06.2019 |

Patent applications covering ‘seeds to meat’ and from ‘maize to milk’

Patent on salmon and trout is not just an isolated case

12 June 2019 / The patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) covering salmon and trout reared on specific plants (EP1965658) could now become a precedent for many other patent applications. Recent research shows several similar European patent applications are already pending, claiming food products, such as meat and milk, derived from animals fed with selected plants.

The patent on salmon and trout was granted in October 2018 and recently brought to public attention by “No Patents on Seeds!”. The patent monopoly covers the rearing and feeding of the fish, along with the fish itself. After learning of this case, No Patents on Seeds! researched similar patent applications. This research came to an alarming conclusion: there are several other European patent applications recently filed at the World Patent Institute (WIPO), all following a similar strategy. Starting with plants and feed, also the food products derived from farm animals are claimed as inventions.

For example, Syngenta not only claims genetically engineered maize as its ‘invention’ but also the production of milk and meat from animals fed with such plants: In patent WO2018204245, “a harvested cattle carcass” is part of the invention; and patent WO2019075028 claims a “method of increasing the amount of milk produced by a dairy animal”. While these patents rely on transgenic maize, others such as the patent on salmon also claim usage of conventionally bred plants.

08.06.2019 |

USDA investigates unapproved GMO wheat found in Washington state

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed the discovery of unapproved, genetically modified (GM) wheat plants growing in an un-planted agricultural field in Washington state.

There was no evidence the wheat had entered the food supply, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a statement on Friday. The wheat is resistant to glyphosate, a widely used herbicide commonly referred to as Roundup.

“USDA is collaborating with our state, industry and trading partners, and we are committed to providing all our partners with timely and transparent information about our findings,” the statement said.

There are currently no commercially approved genetically modified wheat varieties, and incidences of rogue plants are rare. However, unapproved plants were found in 2018 in Alberta, Canada, in 2016 in Washington state, in 2014 in Montana and in 2013 in Oregon.

07.06.2019 |

Save Our Food. Free the Seed.

Not long ago I was sitting in a combine tractor on a 24,000-acre farm in Dazey, N.D. The expanse of the landscape — endless rows of corn and soybeans as precise as a Soviet military parade — was difficult to ignore. So were the skyscraper-tall storage silos and the phalanx of 18-wheeled trucks ready to transport the grain. And yet what held my attention were the couple of dozen seeds in my palm — the same seeds cultivated all around me.

(.....)

More than 90 percent of the 178 million acres of corn and soybeans planted last year in the United States were sown with genetically engineered seeds. It’s a vision as dispiriting as it is unappetizing.

Vegetables have been spared some of this genetic tinkering but are increasingly victim to the same aggressive corporate seed environment. Last year the pharmaceutical company Bayer acquired the world’s largest vegetable seed company, Monsanto.

For these megacompanies, capturing a large share of the vegetable seed market means capturing patentable genetics. Since 2001, the scope of utility patents has expanded to include novel plant traits. (Before this, you could own a variety, but not its traits, in the same way that you can own a beachfront property but not the particles of sand.)

31.05.2019 |

Are New Genetically Modified Techniques the Future of Food and Farming?

I first met Jim Thomas, Co-Director of the ETC Group, at a Sustainable Ag and Food Systems Funders conference. Jim had been tracking emerging technologies and their intersection with food and agriculture for some time. When I first heard him speak, in his lilting almost playful cadence, about something called “synthetic biology,” my ears perked up.

He was talking about a new form of genetic engineering that can alter genetics on a worldwide scale – one with little or no government oversight.

(.....)

What are these next generation of GMO’s?

Biosynthesized Ingredients or “Synthetic Biology” modifies algae, yeast or bacteria to produce high-value products such as flavors, fragrances or dietary supplements. Once modified, the yeast or algae is fed starch or sugar (usually GMO corn or sugar), and the “natural” process of fermentation begins.

(.....)

Gene Drives is a controversial technology that changes an organism so that it will ALWAYS pass on those genetically engineered traits to all future generations. Future generations, in turn, will pass it on until it changes the entire population forever.

Imagine the power to change the genetics of entire populations – we now have that power.

With gene drives, we can change or even eradicate entire species from the planet.

31.05.2019 |

Are New Genetically Modified Techniques the Future of Food and Farming?

I first met Jim Thomas, Co-Director of the ETC Group, at a Sustainable Ag and Food Systems Funders conference. Jim had been tracking emerging technologies and their intersection with food and agriculture for some time. When I first heard him speak, in his lilting almost playful cadence, about something called “synthetic biology,” my ears perked up.

He was talking about a new form of genetic engineering that can alter genetics on a worldwide scale – one with little or no government oversight.

(.....)

Gene Drives is a controversial technology that changes an organism so that it will ALWAYS pass on those genetically engineered traits to all future generations. Future generations, in turn, will pass it on until it changes the entire population forever.

Imagine the power to change the genetics of entire populations – we now have that power.

With gene drives, we can change or even eradicate entire species from the planet.

27.05.2019 |

Gene Drives: Destructive and uncontrollable

From people's eye color to the sterility of unwanted species: When Gene Drives made the scientific breakthrough four years ago, euphoria spread among some scientists in the face of "producible" opportunities. But the technology holds incredible dangers.

Gene drives have the potential to override classic inheritance rules. This makes it possible to manipulate or even eradicate entire populations and species within a few generations. A dangerous technology: destructive, uncontrollable and irreversible.

The dangers are out of proportion to the hoped-for goals of combating infectious diseases and controlling agricultural pests and invasive species. Because the cross-pollination of Gene Drive organisms in populations of the wild leads to an uncontrollable chain reaction that can eradicate species, alter whole ecosystems and decimate biodiversity.

Gene Drives affect us all - find out: www.genedrives.ch

24.05.2019 |

Gene Drive Report

Gene Drives. A report on their science, applications, social aspects, ethics and regulations

23.05.2019 |

Stage set for new wave of genetically engineered plants to be approved and imported after EU elections

Outgoing EU Commission might approve several controversial applications before handing over

Thursday, 23 May 2019

More than 40 organisations from science, environmental protection, lobby control, food production and agriculture have today published a joint letter. They warn that the outgoing EU Commission might approve around a dozen genetically engineered plants on the basis of scientifically unacceptable risk assessment before handing over.

The letter has been signed by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL), Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND), Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE), Gene-Ethical Network (GeN), GeneWatch UK, Global 2000, Save our Seeds (SOS), Slow Food Germany, Testbiotech and many other civil society organisations. They are all demanding higher standards for the risk assessment of genetically engineered organisms. In this regard, the protection of health and the environment should be the highest priority.

At least twelve applications have been filed for approval, all of which have been assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Three of them concern genetically engineered maize that produce insecticidal toxins and are intended for use in cultivation. Amongst these is MON810 (Bayer/ Monsanto), which is already grown in Spain and awaiting re-authorisation. There is a risk of uncontrolled spread from these plants: a wild species related to maize (teosinte) has proliferated in Spain for a number of years. Maize and teosinte can hybridize and may produce offspring with unintended biological characteristics and new risks for the environment.

23.05.2019 |

43 organisations calling to halt further GMO approvals

Dear Members of the EU Commission

More than 40 organisations from science, environmental protection, lobby control, food production and agriculture are calling to halt the approval processes for the GMO applications currently pending.

We are concerned that the outgoing EU Commission might approve around a dozen genetically engineered plants on the basis of scientifically unacceptable risk assessment before handing over.

In the light of the findings as explained in the letter and backed by many EU Parliament resolutions, we ask you

- not to approve the pending applications based on current EFSA opinions;

- to prepare to establish higher standards for risk assessment, taking into account various gaps as identified;

- to prepare to re-organise the responsibility for the protection of health and the environment in the upcoming new EU Commission to make sure that the protection of health and the environment is given the highest priority in the GMO policy of the EU.

22.05.2019 |

International scientists urge precaution with gene drives: new study

Bern/Berlin, 21 May 2019

Gene drives should be treated with the utmost precaution, international scientists conclude in a new and comprehensive study which will be published and presented on May 24 in Bern. The emerging technology is currently not fit for application due to important uncertainties at the scientific, technical and practical levels and due to serious limitations with their functioning, the study shows.

Most gene drives are intended for release in the wild and their influence on ecosystems is unknown, potentially irreversible and very likely to cross national borders. “Existing biosafety rules are deficient and not fully equipped to manage the unique risks posed by gene drives”, says Lim Li Ching, expert on international regulation and an author of the study. Until effective, legally binding international regulation is in place, as well as genuine public engagement, no gene drive organisms (GDOs) should be released, the study recommends. “The public must be involved from the very beginning in defining the problems to be addressed and setting priorities, without an a priori preference for gene drives as a solution”, adds Tamara Lebrecht, project coordinator and another author of the study.

Rather than starting from the suggestion that gene drives will solve problems like invasive species or the spread of diseases like malaria, all available potential solutions and paths to development for such problems should be weighed against each other. Other solutions are often already available or around the corner but may miss the political will and/or funding needed for their development and application. Public interest, not private interest, should control gene drive development. In addition, the use of gene drives for harmful or military applications needs urgent public attention.

These are the prime conclusions of the study published by three independent scientific organisations: Critical Scientists Switzerland (CSS), European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) and Federation of German Scientists (FGS/VDW). Experts from the life sciences, environmental and agricultural sciences, philosophy and law have brought together current knowledge on the science, applications, social aspects, ethics and regulation of gene drives.

CRISPR/Cas, the new genetic engineering method, has allowed the idea of gene drives to be realised. GDOs are designed to ‘drive’ their modified genes into wild populations, by enforcing their own propagation to all offspring and circumventing the rules of inheritance. Examples under investigation are malaria mosquitoes modified to breed only males and thus die out, invasive mice similarly modified to die out, mice modified to prevent their ticks conferring Lyme disease to humans, or weeds modified to take away their resistance to weedkillers. However, the study shows that many claimed features of gene drives are unrealistic and carry a high degree of scientific uncertainty and unpredictability. “Although the technology only exists in the lab, great promises on what gene drives will achieve once released in the wild, are already being made and propagated in the media and scientific publications, thereby overstretching expectation both among the public and among funders”, says Tamara Lebrecht.

The summary of the study is available at https://genedrives.ch/report.

The complete study will be available on May 24 at https://genedrives.ch/report.

The symposium is still open for registration; for details see https://genedrives.ch/symposium/.

For preliminary reporting, interview request and accreditation for the symposium please contact Tamara Lebrecht at lebrecht@criticalscientists.ch

Press contact

Tamara Lebrecht

Executive secretary of CSS and author of the study

lebrecht@criticalscientists.ch

+41 (0) 31 372 02 80

Wir bedanken uns ganz herzlich bei allen Spenderinnen und Spendern!

Im Mai 2019 fand in Bern ein interdisziplinäres Symposium über die wissenschaftlichen, ethischen, sozio-ökonomischen und regulatorischen Aspekte von Gene Drives statt. Zudem wurde ein 350 Seiten starker Bericht zu der neuen Technologie prsäentiert.

Bei unserer Mitmach-Aktion "Samba für die Vielfalt" auf der Wir haben Agrarindustrie satt Demo
am 19.01.2019 tanzten wir für eine gentechnikfreie und vielfältige Landwirtschaft.

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