GMO news related to the European Union

04.10.2019 |

Highlight negative results to improve science

Publishers, reviewers and other members of the scientific community must fight science’s preference for positive results — for the benefit of all, says Devang Mehta.

Near the end of April, my colleagues and I published an unusual scientific paper — one reporting a failed experiment — in Genome Biology. Publishing my work in a well-regarded peer-reviewed journal should’ve been a joyous, celebratory event for a newly minted PhD holder like me. Instead, trying to navigate through three other journals and countless revisions before finding it a home at Genome Biology has revealed to me one of the worst aspects of science today: its toxic definitions of ‘success’.

Our work started as an attempt to use the much-hyped CRISPR gene-editing tool to make cassava (Manihot esculenta) resistant to an incredibly damaging viral disease, cassava mosaic disease. (Cassava is a tropical root crop that is a staple food for almost one billion people.) However, despite previous reports that CRISPR could provide viral immunity to plants by disrupting viral DNA, our experiments consistently showed the opposite result.

In fact, our paper also showed that using CRISPR as an ‘immune system’ in plants probably led to the evolution of viruses that were more resistant to CRISPR. And although this result was scientifically interesting, it wasn’t the ‘positive’ result that applied scientists like me are taught to value. I had set off on my PhD trying to engineer plants to be resistant to viral diseases, and instead, four years later, I had good news for only the virus.

04.10.2019 |

Resounding no to Monsanto’s ‘bogus’ GM drought tolerant maize

South Africa’s Minister, Appeal Board and Biosafety Authority Reject Monsanto’s GM seeds

Johannesburg, South Africa, 4 October 2019

After more than 10 years of battling Monsanto’s ‘bogus’ drought tolerant maize project, the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) welcomes the decision by the Minister of Agriculture, Ms. Thoko Didiza, upholding of both the decision by the Executive Council: GMO Act and the Appeal Board to reject Monsanto’s application for the commercial cultivation of its triple stacked ‘drought-tolerant’ GM maize seed.

This landmark decision is a triumphant win for the ACB and other civil society organizations on the continent that have tirelessly resisted the introduction of these GM varieties in South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The Minister’s decision was made following the abject failure of the GM varieties to increase yield under drought conditions during repeated field trials in South Africa.

The Minister concluded what the ACB and independent biosafety experts have been saying for the last decade: that “the drought tolerance gene in the MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603 maize event did not provide yield protection in water-limited conditions”.

The stacked event, MON87460 x MON89034 x NK603, combines Monsanto’s so-called drought tolerance trait, with their older and increasingly futile herbicide tolerance and insecticidal traits.

17.09.2019 |

Gene-edited animals will intensify factory farming and the climate crisis, could harm human health

New report highlights urgent need for safety assessments, oversight


WASHINGTON — A new report from Friends of the Earth and Logos Environmental reveals that the use of gene editing in farm animals poses risks to human health, the environment and animal welfare. The report comes on the heels of research by the FDA showing that gene-edited hornless cattle have unexpected antibiotic resistant genes, despite researchers’ original claims that they did not contain any genetic errors. This new report sheds light on the unintended consequences of gene editing and considers the implications for U.S. regulations.

Many genetically engineered farm animals are currently in development, funded by private companies or governments and enabled by new gene editing technologies such as CRISPR. Examples include super-muscly cows and pigs, hornless cattle, chickens and pigs made to resist certain diseases, cows with human genes, and other genetic experiments. Production of these gene-edited farm animals is often done with little public awareness or input.

16.09.2019 |

Gene-Hacking Mosquitoes to Be Infertile Backfired Spectacularly

On its surface, the plan was simple: gene-hack mosquitoes so their offspring immediately die, mix them with disease-spreading bugs in the wild, and watch the population drop off. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite pan out.

The genetically-altered mosquitoes did mix with the wild population, and for a brief period the number of mosquitoes in Jacobino, Brazil did plummet, according to research published in Nature Scientific Reports last week. But 18 months later the population bounced right back up, New Atlas reports — and even worse, the new genetic hybrids may be even more resilient to future attempts to quell their numbers.

14.09.2019 |

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Thrive in Brazil, to Researchers' Surprise

Mosquitoes around the world are known carriers of dangerous and potentially deadly human diseases such as West Nile virus, yellow fever, dengue, malaria, and Zika. In recent years as scientists have moved away from the hazardous insecticides of the past, their focus has turned to genetic modification as a more effective and less harmful way to control mosquito populations. But new results published in Scientific Reports by Yale researchers show that this new plan of attack is not without its bugs — literally.

14.09.2019 |

Monsanto’s Spies

The agri-chemical giant has a storied history of using shady tactics to attack critics and influence the media.

It was early March when other reporters first noticed Sylvie Barak. About a half a dozen journalists were in a northern California courtroom to cover a third lawsuit alleging that Monsanto’s pesticide glyphosate causes cancer.

Barak told others that she was a freelancer for the BBC. She was friendly and helpful, listened earnestly as reporters discussed their private lives; she offered parenting tips and shared her thoughts on the trial.

10.09.2019 |

Transgenic Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Transfer Genes into a Natural Population

Abstract

In an attempt to control the mosquito-borne diseases yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, and Zika fevers, a strain of transgenically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes containing a dominant lethal gene has been developed by a commercial company, Oxitec Ltd. If lethality is complete, releasing this strain should only reduce population size and not affect the genetics of the target populations. Approximately 450 thousand males of this strain were released each week for 27 months in Jacobina, Bahia, Brazil. We genotyped the release strain and the target Jacobina population before releases began for >21,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Genetic sampling from the target population six, 12, and 27–30 months after releases commenced provides clear evidence that portions of the transgenic strain genome have been incorporated into the target population. Evidently, rare viable hybrid offspring between the release strain and the Jacobina population are sufficiently robust to be able to reproduce in nature. The release strain was developed using a strain originally from Cuba, then outcrossed to a Mexican population. Thus, Jacobina Ae. aegypti are now a mix of three populations. It is unclear how this may affect disease transmission or affect other efforts to control these dangerous vectors. These results highlight the importance of having in place a genetic monitoring program during such releases to detect un-anticipated outcomes.

16.08.2019 |

Conference: “Science, Precaution, Innovation - towards the integrated governance of new technologies”, 14-15 October, Bielefeld

European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility

Conference on the Precautionary Principle:

“Science, Precaution, Innovation - towards the integrated governance of new technologies”

When: 14-15 October 2019

Where: Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF), Methoden 1, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany

Program: www.ensser.org/pp-conference

Register at registration [at] ensser.org

The Precautionary Principle (PP) concerns situations where the available scientific information about possible harm from human-made innovations gives decision-makers reasonable grounds to suspect possible harm to human health, the environment or biodiversity, but where scientific certainty is lacking. The PP in such situations lawfully justifies decision makers taking precautionary measures to avoid such harm.

Although enshrined in the EU treaty and formally a pillar of EU policy, the PP is often ignored, misinterpreted or violated by the EU Commission and member states. The introduction in recent years of a so called “innovation principle” may well erode this science-based standard and prioritize particularly powerful incumbent economic interests over the high level of protection provided in the EU Treaty. Truly sustainable innovations, however, require conformity with the PP, and a more comprehensive assessment of what (if any) social benefits, and which social needs, may be met.

In this conference we will present and critically appraise examples which illustrate the importance of the PP and discuss what is required to ensure that it will be used wisely and more frequently. Viable paths to a reasonable confidence of no harm to public health, biodiversity and the environment will be identified and explored by reference to currently available knowledge, while acknowledging that strict proof of safety is an illusory goal. Examples including pesticide use, genetically modified crops, electromagnetic fields, endocrine disrupting compounds and nanotechnology will be presented by eminent speakers and explored by the participants.

12.08.2019 |

FDA Finds Unexpected Antibiotic Resistance Genes in 'Gene-Edited' Dehorned Cattle

By Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD

Gene-editing is seen by many as the ultimate in precision breeding. Polled cattle, whose horns have been genetically removed, have been presented as exemplars of this–a socially beneficial use of precise genome engineering. Such hornless cattle were produced in 2016 by Recombinetics, Inc., of St. Paul, Minnesota, a development that was reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology (Carlson et al, 2016).

In that publication, Recombinetics researchers reported detecting no unexpected alterations, such as insertions or deletions of DNA, as a result of the gene-editing procedure. They concluded “our animals are free of off-target events” (Carlson et al, 2016).

09.08.2019 |

Gene-edited hornless cattle: Flaws in the genome overlooked

New techniques for genetic engineering are not as precise as claimed

Cattle are being genetically engineered using gene-editing tools to not grow horns. But according to newly published research by experts at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), gene-editing errors in the genome of these cattle are often being overlooked (see abstract below).

The animals were genetically engineered by the biotech company Recombinetics. The company also filed a patent on the genetically engineered cattle. The cattle have for some years been hyped as a positive application of new genetic engineering techniques and a boon for animal welfare, since these GM cattle will not need to be de-horned. However, it appears to have so far gone unnoticed that the gene-editing has resulted in major unintended outcomes.

Unintended effects

The gene editing scissors (nucleases) used in this case are known as TALENs, a method frequently described as highly precise, and indeed, no off-target genetic changes were detected by the developers of these hornless cattle at Recombinetics.

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