News

2016-12-07 |

Victory! GE Mosquitoes Will Not Be Let Loose on Florida Community

Citizens/environment will not be impacted by novel experiment releasing millions of GE mosquitoes

WASHINGTON— The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will not move forward with the controversial release of millions of genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes in the community of Key Haven in Monroe County, Florida. The release of the GE mosquitoes would have been the first-ever in the United States, but FDA failed to conduct adequate testing for potential impacts to people, threatened and endangered species, and the environment. During the November 2016 election, local citizens voted against the release of the insects.

A coalition of public interest groups – including Center for Food Safety (CFS), Friends of the Earth (FOE), Foundation Earth, the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, and Food & Water Watch – yesterday received a response to their 60-day notice of intent to sue FDA under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for failing to take into account impacts to federally listed species in a fast-tracked approval of the release of the GE mosquitoes.

2016-12-07 |

Missouri's largest peach farmer sues Monsanto over alleged damage from illegal herbicide use

Missouri’s largest peach producer has filed a lawsuit against Monsanto Co., alleging that the biotech company bears responsibility for illegal herbicide use suspected of causing widespread crop damage in southeast Missouri and neighboring states.

The suit filed Nov. 23 on behalf of Bill Bader, who operates Bader Farms near Campbell, Mo., seeks compensation for extensive damage to the farm’s peach trees suffered over the last two years — an interval which coincides with Monsanto’s release of crop varieties resistant to the herbicide dicamba.

Despite the Creve Coeur-based company’s rollout of dicamba-resistant Xtend crops in 2015, the corresponding herbicide was not approved for use until last month. Its absence meant that some farmers are suspected of using highly volatile, unauthorized forms of dicamba, prone to vaporizing and drifting to surrounding areas where nonresistant crops can be harmed.

The case was filed in Circuit Court of Dunklin County, an area of southeast Missouri’s Bootheel region where alleged dicamba damage has been especially pronounced. Many soybean farmers in the area have reported diminished yields due to suspected drift, and Bader thinks the same has happened to peaches and other crops around his farm.

2016-12-06 |

Biodiversity Convention call to block new 'genetic extinction' GMOs

GMWatch & The Ecologist

160 global groups have called for a moratorium on new 'genetic extinction' technology at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Cancun, Mexico. Gene drive technology, they say, poses serious and irreversible threats to biodiversity, national sovereignty, peace and food security.

International conservation and environmental leaders from over 160 organisation are calling on governments at the 2016 COP13 of the Biodiversity Convention to establish a moratorium on the controversial genetic extinction technology called 'gene drives'.

Gene drives, developed through new gene-editing techniques, are designed to force a particular genetically engineered trait to spread through an entire wild population - potentially changing entire species or even causing deliberate extinctions.

The statement urges governments to put in place an urgent, global moratorium on the development and release of the new technology which, they say, poses "serious and potentially irreversible threats to biodiversity, as well as national sovereignty, peace, and food security."

Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, representing the Federation of German Scientists, said: "It is essential that we pause, to allow the scientific community, local communities and society at large to debate and reflect. We can't allow ourselves to be led by a novel technique.

"We lack the knowledge and understanding to release gene drives into the environment - we don't even know what questions to ask. To deliberately drive a species to extinction has major ethical, social and environmental implications."

"Gene drives will be one of the fiercest debates at CBD this year", added Jim Thomas of ETC Group. "Gene drives are advancing far too quickly in the real world, and so far are unregulated. There are already hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into gene drive development, and even reckless proposals to release gene drives within next four years."

2016-12-05 |

Genetic extinction technology and digital DNA challenged at UN Convention

Civil society defends rights of indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers against big-pharma and biotech

CANCUN, MEXICO —This week, international conservation and environmental leaders will meet to call on governments to protect biodiversity, indigenous people and local communities’ rights from controversial new biotechnologies. Regulatory advocates will weigh in on the controversial uses of a genetic extinction technology called gene drives and the handling of digital gene sequences.

What: Thousands of government and civil society representatives convene for the 2016 UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) Conference of the Parties.

Where: Cancun, Mexico

When: December 5-17, 2016. Civil society groups will be hosting side events to caution for stronger regulations of synthetic biology starting December 5.

Quotes from regulatory advocates and stakeholders:

“At the top of the agenda for this year’s biodiversity convention is how to govern the outpouring of new biotechnologies in a way that protects nature and people’s livelihoods,” said Jim Thomas, program director at ETC Group. “A coalition of civil society groups is calling especially for a moratorium on the use of gene drives and for rules that protect against the digital theft of genetic resources from communities.”

“To alter wild populations or bring whole species to extinction has major ethical, social and environmental implications. Not only do we lack the knowledge and understanding to carry out such complex risk assessments, we don’t even know what questions to ask,” said Dr. Steinbrecher, biologist and molecular geneticist representing the Federation of German Scientists. “We need to pause and allow the scientific community, local communities and society at large to debate and reflect, rather than simply allowing technology to lead us down this path. In the meantime, a moratorium is essential.”

“Unprincipled distribution and unapproved use of digital DNA threatens 25 years of international work on access and benefit sharing rules,” said Ed Hammond, research associate, Third World Network. “The Cancun COP must step in and address the breach that is opening between digital and physical access to biodiversity.”

Dana Perls, senior campaigner, Friends of the Earth U.S. said: “Speculative companies are threatening biodiversity with dangerous technologies and stealing genetic resources that indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers have historically stewarded for the good of humankind. We must not let companies take over nature for the sake of profit and market control.”

2016-12-05 |

Synthetic Biology - Digital DNA is Biopiracy’s Latest Frontier

Third World Network

Yesterday’s biopirate hid seeds in her boots, but
tomorrow’s may steal genetic sequence data. Faster and
cheaper gene sequencing is creating massive new digital
databases of biodiversity. Some of them contain the DNA
sequences of thousands, even tens of thousands, of
varieties of crops, crop wild relatives, medicinal plants, and
microbes. Almost none of these databases currently apply
access and benefit sharing (ABS) rules of the CBD and
Nagoya Procotol.

The technology for this “digital DNA” to be downloaded
and then introduced into new organisms is becoming a
reality, meaning that biodiversity can be moved across the
planet electronically and possibly without the material
transfer agreement (MTA) that many countries use to
implement ABS rules.

For example, European scientists might use an internet
database to obtain gene sequences from South American
tomatoes and tomato wild relatives. If they identify
valuable diversity, instead of going to South America to
negotiate an ABS agreement, they might instead use
CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to reproduce that diversity in
European tomatoes - without an agreement with the
country of origin.

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