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

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

04.12.2018 |

Tanzania Ban Genetically Modified Crop Trials

On November 21st, 2018, the Ministry of Agricultural of Tanzania has instructed the Tanzania Institute for Agricultural Research (TARI) to terminate Genetic Modified Organism-GMOs at its research centers.

In addition, it has ordered TARI to destroy with all remainders of the experiments on GMOs.

The action was taken after the Institute began to disseminate the results of its researches on GMOs without obtaining government approval.

Tanzania has been carrying out GM seeds confined field trials for maize in Makutopora in Dodoma Region and for cassava at the Mikocheni Agriculture Research Institute in Dar es Salaam.

29.11.2018 |

United Nations Hits the Brakes on Gene Drives

Landmark Convention on Biological Diversity decision calls on governments to conduct strict risk assessments and seek indigenous and local peoples’ consent ahead of potential release of ‘exterminator’ technology.

29 November 2018, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt: Today, the UN has made a significant global decision on how to govern a high-risk, new genetic engineering technology – gene drives.

‘This important decision puts controls on gene drives using simple common sense principles: Don’t mess with someone else’s environment, territories and rights without their consent,’ explains Jim Thomas, Co-Executive Director of the ETC Group. ‘Gene drives are currently being pursued by powerful military and agribusiness interests and a few wealthy individuals. This UN decision puts the power back in the hands of local communities, in particular Indigenous Peoples, to step on the brakes on this exterminator technology’.

The Convention on Biological Diversity decision also requires that, before an environmental gene drive release, a thorough risk assessment is carried out. With most countries lacking a regulatory system for the technology, it requires that new safety measures are put in place to prevent potential adverse effects. The decision acknowledges that more studies and research on impacts of gene drives are needed to develop guidelines to assess gene drive organisms before they are considered for release.

27.11.2018 |

S&Ds back enhanced EU risk assessment to avoid harmful pesticides in the food chain

Socialists and Democrats have been at the forefront in the fight against harmful pesticides, such as those containing glyphosate, and have pushed for a strict and independent European system to exclude any dangerous substance from the food chain.

That is why today the S&Ds in the environment and health committee backed a report which aims to cover the whole agri-food chain, to ensure the independence of the authorisation process as well as public availability of studies submitted by the industry and used by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in the risk assessment.

S&D spokesperson on environment and health, Miriam Dalli, said:

“Our group took very seriously citizens’ concerns on harmful substances. We supported the Citizens’ Initiative on Glyphosate and we want to have a better system to evaluate pesticides than the one in place now.

"The risk assessment process must be more transparent, and we demand additional guarantees of reliability, objectivity and independence of the studies used by EFSA.

“All studies and supporting information submitted to EFSA for risk assessments should be made public and easily accessible to the public on the EFSA website."

26.11.2018 |

Meet the Modern Farmer: William Woys Weaver, Roughwood Seed Collection

He’s keeping heirloom vegetables alive.

(.....)

For a long time, William Woys Weaver thought that everyone’s grandfather collected seeds. “I just continued what my family had been doing all along,” he says. Weaver’s grandfather began the Roughwood Seed Collection in 1932 and grew it all his life. Today, his collection is not only the oldest collection of seeds in Pennsylvania but also the largest private holding of Native American food plants anywhere.

Stored on bookshelves in a dark archive room are hundreds of feet of tiny, carefully categorized seeds — and not just any seeds but special, very old ones. Weaver doesn’t just have a seed for corn; he has seeds for Oneida corn flour, one of the oldest and finest Native American flours that was used to feed George Washington’s starving army in the 18th century. He doesn’t just have russet potato seeds; he has about 100 varieties of potatoes, including a rare potato from Scotland that has red, white and blue patches on its skin.

“If we lose these seeds, we lose control of our own food supply, which was the situation for medieval serfs,” says Weaver. Most of the food we eat today — even much of the food grown in our own gardens — comes from seeds that have been genetically modified over time. On its own, that isn’t a bad thing. Take the watermelon, for example. Watermelons were heavily crossbred in the 20th century to make them easier to sell. At first, they were crossbred to be more resistant to pests, which also made them a little mealier. Then they had too many seeds, which could be crossbred out. They also kept breaking on trains, so they needed thicker rinds. The watermelon we have today is perfectly bred for transportation and mass consumption, but it wasn’t modified for taste.

26.11.2018 |

KAP resolution says keep glyphosate-tolerant wheat out

Monsanto shelved Roundup Ready wheat in 2004 but its spectre still haunts some Manitoba farmers.

Delegates attending the Keystone Agriculture Producers’ (KAP) advisory council meeting here Nov. 12 passed a resolution for KAP to lobby the federal government to “disallow the testing, funding, importation and introduction of glyphosate-tolerant wheat in Canada.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) June announcement that a few wheat plants genetically modified (GM) to tolerate glyphosate were discovered in a ditch in Alberta prompted the resolution from KAP’s District 3, Starbuck farmer Doug Livingston explained when moving the resolution.

23.11.2018 |

Tanzania orders destruction of Monsanto/Gates’ GM trials due to illegal use for pro-GM propaganda

Dar es Salaam 23 November 2018

Tanzanian civil society organisations (CSOs) welcome the decision of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Mathew Mtigumwe, to bring an immediate stop to all ongoing GM field trials taking place in the country. These are under the auspices of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project which includes Monsanto, the Gates Foundation and national research centres. This decision has since been verified by the newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Japheth Hasunga in latest media reports.

In a report issued by the Ministry, the Permanent Secretary ordered, with immediate effect, the cessation of all field trial operations and the destruction of all “the remnants” of the trials at the Makutupora Centre in Dodoma, where trials were taking place. This decision has come after the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) released the results of the trials without the necessary authorisation, when it invited certain members of the public, including the well-known pro GM lobbyist, Mark Lynas, to witness how ‘well’ the GM crops were performing. TARI also hosted a recent excursion to the trial site by the Parliamentary Committee on Food and Agriculture.

Wir bedanken uns ganz herzlich bei allen Spenderinnen und Spendern!

Am 24. Mai 2019 findet in Bern ein interdisziplinäres Gene Drive Symposium statt. Es beleuchtet die wissenschaftlichen, ethischen, sozio-ökonomischen und regulatorischen Aspekte dieser neuen Technologie. Hier mehr erfahren!

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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