News

26.03.2020 |

No place for gene editing in Commission's sustainability strategy

The Farm to Fork Strategy aims to make farming healthier and more environmentally friendly – but it might also prove to be a back-door entry point for gene-edited products

The European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F) is a key component of the European Green Deal, a "new growth strategy" that "gives back more than it takes away".

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"New genomic techniques" are, of course, new GM techniques. It is baffling that the Commission planned to assess their status under EU law because the European Court of Justice – the highest legal authority in the EU – ruled in 2018 that these new techniques fall under the EU's GMO regulations. That means that products of the new techniques must go through safety checks and carry a GMO label. Did the Commission really think it understood the law better than the Court? Or was it just desperate to find a way to rescue "new GM" from the scrutiny of safety assessments and labelling?

As for the Commission's potential "proposal", this is almost certainly an attempt to change the GMO regulations to allow gene-edited (and possibly all GM) products easier access to market.

25.03.2020 |

UPOV : Indeed, new GMOs can be accurately identified

Companies are claiming all around the world that nobody is able to differentiate between their new GMOs and plants that have acquired the same targeted mutation naturally or through traditional breeding methods. But a contrario they claim to be able to accurately characterize their own plant varieties by genetic tools, as evidenced by the work performed at the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). Fortunately, the same methods and tools are usable to differentiate new GMOs from non-GM plants, provided a political will exists to roll out the appropriate protocols.

19.03.2020 |

Approval of genetically engineered soy protein for ‘Impossible Burger’ challenged

The Center for Food Safety has asked the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to review a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision to approve soy leghemoglobin as a color additive for use in ground beef analog products. The advocacy group claims that the FDA’s decision was not based on “convincing evidence” that is required by regulation.

The FDA approval of a genetically engineered (GE) soy protein used in the” Impossible Burger” over objections by CFS. The ingredient is also referred to as genetically engineered “heme,” soy leghemoglobin. It is the color additive Impossible Foods uses to make its plant-based burger appear to “bleed” as if it were real beef.

The March 17 civil action by CFS asserts that FDA used the wrong legal standard when it reviewed and approved GE heme to be used in raw Impossible Burgers sold in grocery stores. Instead of using the color additive safety standard that specifies “convincing evidence that establishes with reasonable certainty that no harm will result from the intended use of the color additive,” FDA conflated that standard with the food additive safety standard, which does not specify that there must be “convincing evidence.”

17.03.2020 |

New report: strict regulation of new genomic techniques is scientifically necessary

Environmental impacts of CRISPR/Cas and its challenges for risk assessment

17 March 2020 / In a new report, Testbiotech provides an overview of the latest research developments in environmental risk assessment and new methods of genetic engineering (also known as ‘genome editing’ or ‘new genomic technicques’). The authors come to the conclusion there are imperative scientific reasons for all organisms derived from these new techniques to undergo mandatory risk assessment before they can be released or marketed. Therefore, regulation requirements foreseen by current GMO law in the EU must be mandatory whether or not additional DNA sequences are inserted. In addition, a broad range of ethical and social issues must be taken into account by the regulatory decision-makers.

The report focuses on possible impacts that new methods of genetic engineering (genome editing) can have on the environment. It is primarily concerned with CRISPR/Cas nucleases classified as ‘site directed nucleases’ SDN-1 and SDN -2. These applications are not meant to introduce additional gene sequences. Nevertheless, the pattern of intended and unintended changes and the resulting new combinations of genetic information arising from genome editing will, in most cases, be different in comparison to those derived from conventional breeding. These differences co-occur with biological characteristics and risks that need to be fully investigated before any conclusions on the safety of the new organisms can be drawn.

16.03.2020 |

Is Hogan about to let Trump's GM exports into EU?

Five years after the public outcry against lowering EU standards via the TransAtlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTP) culminated in a petition signed by more than three million EU citizens, the new EU Commission is giving it another try.

By 18 March, trade commissioner Phil Hogan wants to sign a deal with the Trump administration which, to add a bit of spice, includes fast-tracking GMO imports in an attempt to please the US farming industry.

At the same time, the commission is downplaying work by independent scientists highlighting major gaps in current risk assessment procedures for genetically engineered (GE) plants.

Will the Green Deal take account of the environmental and health risks of GE organisms?

14.03.2020 |

Australia: Genetically modified milk?!

An Australian company has bred dairy cows from ‘gene edited’ bulls whose genomes have since been found to unintentionally contain bacterial DNA. The US Food and Drug Administration say this demonstrates the risks posed by these techniques and why they need to be regulated.

However, in Australia the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator is allowing a number of these techniques to be used with no regulation at all. And our food regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand has proposed regulatory changes that mean milk from these cows could enter our supermarkets with no safety assessment or labelling.

14.03.2020 |

Australia's GM hornless cows and the science experiment that went wrong

Mutants or miracles?

They were the genetically modified cows that would change the dairy industry forever, but then it all went wrong and the experiment ended up in an Australian paddock.

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Australia’s GM cows

This paddock in country Victoria could be just like any other. Surrounded by lush grass, it’s lined with trees and a wire fence.

There’s one key difference — what’s inside it is considered a “biological hazard” and is under quarantine.

12.03.2020 |

Revealed: Monsanto’s secret funding for weedkiller studies | Environment

The research, used to help avoid a ban, claimed ‘severe impacts’ on farming if glyphosate was outlawed

Monsanto secretly funded academic studies indicating “very severe impacts” on farming and the environment if its controversial glyphosate weedkiller were banned, an investigation has found.

The research was used by the National Farmers’ Union and others to successfully lobby against a European ban in 2017. As a result of the revelations, the NFU has now amended its glyphosate information to declare the source of the research.

Monsanto was bought by the agri-chemical multinational Bayer in 2018 and Bayer said the studies’ failure to disclose their funding broke its principles. However, the authors of the studies said the funding did not influence their work and the editor of the journal in which they were published said the papers would not be retracted or amended.

02.03.2020 |

It's not just chlorinated chicken: five foods a US trade deal could bring to the UK

GM foods

The majority of US processed foods contain genetically modified ingredients, unlike British food. The US is demanding a “science-based” approach to food. This sounds good, but in trade deals “science-based” is a shorthand for more genetically modified food and more intensive chemical use. It contrasts with the EU’s precautionary principle, which takes a cautious approach to health risks and bans foods where there’s a credible risk to health. In the US, the balance of proof works the other way, and there is a high barrier that has to be passed before “harm” translates into regulation. Lead paint, banned in most of Europe before the second world war, was not prohibited in the US until 1978. Boris Johnson and his lead negotiator to the EU have talked about the need for the UK’s approach to food standards to be “governed by science”. GM is coming this way.

27.02.2020 |

Gene-editing regulation not the biggest hurdle for SMEs in EU, says academic

The argument that excessive regulation adversely affects small and medium enterprises (SMEs) does not stand up to scrutiny, according to molecular geneticist Dr Michael Antoniou, head of the gene expression and therapy group at King’s College London.

The regulatory approval process for new biotech crop varieties is often said to be unduly slow and expensive, presenting an important barrier for biotech SMEs.

The chair of the agriculture committee (AGRI) MEP, Norbert Lins, recently told EURACTIV.com that it is much easier for larger companies to implement new GM legislation, but it’s the smaller ones that are most affected by the recent gene-editing ruling.

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