2015-01-30 |

No scientific consensus on GMO safety, statement published in peer-reviewed journal

A statement signed by over 300 scientists and legal experts to the effect that there is “No consensus” on the safety of genetically modified (GM) crops and foods has been published in a peer-reviewed open access journal, Environmental Sciences Europe. It now belongs to the body of open peer-reviewed scientific literature and stands as a citable publication.

Dr Angelika Hilbeck, one of the authors of the published statement and chair of ENSSER, said, "As well as receiving the endorsement of the peer reviewers at the journal, the statement has also been peer-reviewed and transparently endorsed by more than 300 scientists and experts from relevant fields of inquiry, including molecular biologists and biotechnologists."

The statement was first published in late 2013 in response to claims from the GM industry and some scientists and commentators that there is a “scientific consensus” that GM foods and crops are safe for human and animal health and the environment. The statement calls these claims “misleading”, adding, “The claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist.”

2015-01-29 |

Open letter to the Commission on new genetic engineering methods

Dear Commissioner Andriukaitis,

In the interest of protecting the environment and public health, genetically modified crops are subject to risk assessment, an authorisation process and labelling rules under EU law. All nontraditional breeding processes that change the structure of DNA using genetic engineering technologies or interfere with gene regulation fall within the scope of these GM regulations. Some are now calling on the European Commission to exempt new genetic engineering techniques from GM rules. The undersigned groups argue that such an exception could threaten the environment and our health, and would violate EU law.

Any attempt to engineer genomes by invasive methods can cause unexpected and unpredictable effects. For example, “cisgenesis” - a genetic engineering technique that uses genes from the same
species - is still genetic engineering and is therefore subject to unexpected and unpredictable effects caused by the genetic engineering process itself, and not by the trait or sequence inserted. New techniques to genetically engineer plants and animals, such as so-called DNA scissors (nucleases) and interventions in gene regulation, raise additional concerns.

(Read more)

27 January 2015

Francesco Panella, President, Bee-life European Beekeeping Coordination
Nina Holland, Researcher, Corporate Europe Observatory
Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, Co-Director, Econexus, UK
Andrea Ferrante, Coordinating Committee, European Coordination Via Campesina
Mute Schimpf, Food Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe
Dr Helen Wallace, Director, GeneWatch, UK,
Saskia Richartz, Acting Director, Greenpeace European Unit
Christoph Then, Executive Director, Testbiotech, Germany

2015-01-28 |

DuPont GMO seed sales down - Bt corn no longer resistant to pests

DuPont acknowledged a dent to seed sales in Brazil from the resistance of a major insect pest to genetically modified traits as the chemicals conglomerate unveiled a fourth successive quarter of declining agriculture sales.

The US-based group, unveiling results for the October-to-December quarter in line with Wall Street expectations, said that revenues at its agricultural division fell 4.1% to $1.73bn.

The decline reflected in part a 1% drop in sales of agrochemicals which, with a rise in sales volumes more than offset by a greater mix of lower priced products, and by currency headwinds.

However, the drop was in the main down to DuPont's seeds business, Pioneer, which saw sales drop by 7%, thanks in the main to setbacks in Brazil.

2015-01-27 |

Europe's food fight shifts after GM crop vote

Campaign groups and the biotech industry are digging in for a new round of conflict, following the European Union's decision to allow member states to set their own rules on growing genetically modified organisms.

Environmentalists who favor a GMO ban say the crops have not been properly tested - posing health risks for consumers and giving a small group of corporations too much control over food supplies. The biotech industry says farmers should be free to grow whatever crops they want, and GMOs are a safe way to boost food production and feed the planet's growing population.

Since the European Parliament vote on Jan. 13, neither industry nor campaigners have claimed victory.

Under planned legislation, expected to be finalised in March, member states would not be able to block GMOs with domestic health or environmental regulations.

Instead, countries that oppose cultivation can negotiate with companies individually, to ask them not to market the products on their territory. States would also be able to block GMOs under town planning and other rules.

2015-01-26 |

Caution Sounded on GM Mosquito Strategy to Control Diseases

FDA could set millions of genetically modified mosquitoes loose in Florida Keys (January 26, 2015)

Third World Network: Caution Sounded on GM Mosquito Strategy to Control Diseases

Recent research in Panama, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, raises concerns about the strategy of using GM Aedes aegypti mosquito to control diseases. The GM mosquitoes, genetically modified by the British firm Oxitec to render the mosquito larvae unviable, were released in field trials in Panama in April 2014. The aim is to greatly reduce Ae. aegypti populations and with it, the incidence of dengue.

However, Ae. aegypti and the Asian tiger mosquito, Ae. albopictus are ecologically very similar. Both can spread Chikungunya as well as dengue. Chikungunya, a tropical disease that causes fever, fatigue and joint swelling, spread rapidly throughout the Americas in 2014 and the first case was reported in Panama in May 2014. The research found that Ae. albopictus was spreading across the country, relying on road networks to disperse.

Two main concerns were raised in relation to GM mosquitoes:

(1) Ae. albopictus’ aggressive invasive nature could help it colonize areas where GM mosquitoes have wiped out local populations of Ae. aegypti and elevate Chikungunya to a more widespread public health threat; and

(2) Ae. aegypti (including wild forms) could re-establish itself in the absence of continuous release of the GM versions, which would be very expensive for Panama.

Either occurrence could facilitate the spread of Chikungunya and dengue in Panama. “In this particular case, where you’ve got two mosquitoes that can do the same thing, but the GM approach is only going to affect one of them, it doesn’t make sense at all,” says Matthew Miller, one of the researchers of the study.

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