News

27.05.2019 |

Gene Drives: Destructive and uncontrollable

From people's eye color to the sterility of unwanted species: When Gene Drives made the scientific breakthrough four years ago, euphoria spread among some scientists in the face of "producible" opportunities. But the technology holds incredible dangers.

Gene drives have the potential to override classic inheritance rules. This makes it possible to manipulate or even eradicate entire populations and species within a few generations. A dangerous technology: destructive, uncontrollable and irreversible.

The dangers are out of proportion to the hoped-for goals of combating infectious diseases and controlling agricultural pests and invasive species. Because the cross-pollination of Gene Drive organisms in populations of the wild leads to an uncontrollable chain reaction that can eradicate species, alter whole ecosystems and decimate biodiversity.

Gene Drives affect us all - find out: www.genedrives.ch

24.05.2019 |

Gene Drive Report

Gene Drives. A report on their science, applications, social aspects, ethics and regulations

23.05.2019 |

Stage set for new wave of genetically engineered plants to be approved and imported after EU elections

Outgoing EU Commission might approve several controversial applications before handing over

Thursday, 23 May 2019

More than 40 organisations from science, environmental protection, lobby control, food production and agriculture have today published a joint letter. They warn that the outgoing EU Commission might approve around a dozen genetically engineered plants on the basis of scientifically unacceptable risk assessment before handing over.

The letter has been signed by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL), Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND), Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE), Gene-Ethical Network (GeN), GeneWatch UK, Global 2000, Save our Seeds (SOS), Slow Food Germany, Testbiotech and many other civil society organisations. They are all demanding higher standards for the risk assessment of genetically engineered organisms. In this regard, the protection of health and the environment should be the highest priority.

At least twelve applications have been filed for approval, all of which have been assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Three of them concern genetically engineered maize that produce insecticidal toxins and are intended for use in cultivation. Amongst these is MON810 (Bayer/ Monsanto), which is already grown in Spain and awaiting re-authorisation. There is a risk of uncontrolled spread from these plants: a wild species related to maize (teosinte) has proliferated in Spain for a number of years. Maize and teosinte can hybridize and may produce offspring with unintended biological characteristics and new risks for the environment.

23.05.2019 |

43 organisations calling to halt further GMO approvals

Dear Members of the EU Commission

More than 40 organisations from science, environmental protection, lobby control, food production and agriculture are calling to halt the approval processes for the GMO applications currently pending.

We are concerned that the outgoing EU Commission might approve around a dozen genetically engineered plants on the basis of scientifically unacceptable risk assessment before handing over.

In the light of the findings as explained in the letter and backed by many EU Parliament resolutions, we ask you

- not to approve the pending applications based on current EFSA opinions;

- to prepare to establish higher standards for risk assessment, taking into account various gaps as identified;

- to prepare to re-organise the responsibility for the protection of health and the environment in the upcoming new EU Commission to make sure that the protection of health and the environment is given the highest priority in the GMO policy of the EU.

23.05.2019 |

Japan: Please Join One Million Signature Petition Campaign: “Regulate All Gene-edited Food!”

Dear Friends and Fellow Anti-GMO Campaigners,

Please Join Our One Million Signature Petition Campaign:

“Regulate All Gene-edited Food!”

In March 2019, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan

concluded that no regulation is needed for most of gene-edited food to

be sold in Japan. The Ministry of the Environment also announced its

decision to require regulation only for limited gene-edited food using

created with specific processes. Consequently, some sources expect

gene-edited food to be available as early as this summer of 2019 in

Japan.

We, Consumers Union of Japan, together with concerned grassroots

organizations and Co-ops across Japan, have been advocating the

strictest possible regulation at a level that is at least equal to GMO

regulations over the last few years, but our voice has not been

reflected in the government’s decision making as of now. Our demand is

fully in accordance with our consumers’ rights stipulated in the Basic

Act on Consumers Policies.

We are highly concerned about this situation. No regulation means

basically no enforced safety tests, no transparency and no labelling.

Due in part to the fact that Japan is a country with less than 40% of

food self-sufficiency, consumers can only expect a marketplace that is a

virtual hell filled with uncontrolled gene-edited food produced possibly

both domestically and globally, unless we take action.

22.05.2019 |

International scientists urge precaution with gene drives: new study

Bern/Berlin, 21 May 2019

Gene drives should be treated with the utmost precaution, international scientists conclude in a new and comprehensive study which will be published and presented on May 24 in Bern. The emerging technology is currently not fit for application due to important uncertainties at the scientific, technical and practical levels and due to serious limitations with their functioning, the study shows.

Most gene drives are intended for release in the wild and their influence on ecosystems is unknown, potentially irreversible and very likely to cross national borders. “Existing biosafety rules are deficient and not fully equipped to manage the unique risks posed by gene drives”, says Lim Li Ching, expert on international regulation and an author of the study. Until effective, legally binding international regulation is in place, as well as genuine public engagement, no gene drive organisms (GDOs) should be released, the study recommends. “The public must be involved from the very beginning in defining the problems to be addressed and setting priorities, without an a priori preference for gene drives as a solution”, adds Tamara Lebrecht, project coordinator and another author of the study.

Rather than starting from the suggestion that gene drives will solve problems like invasive species or the spread of diseases like malaria, all available potential solutions and paths to development for such problems should be weighed against each other. Other solutions are often already available or around the corner but may miss the political will and/or funding needed for their development and application. Public interest, not private interest, should control gene drive development. In addition, the use of gene drives for harmful or military applications needs urgent public attention.

These are the prime conclusions of the study published by three independent scientific organisations: Critical Scientists Switzerland (CSS), European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) and Federation of German Scientists (FGS/VDW). Experts from the life sciences, environmental and agricultural sciences, philosophy and law have brought together current knowledge on the science, applications, social aspects, ethics and regulation of gene drives.

CRISPR/Cas, the new genetic engineering method, has allowed the idea of gene drives to be realised. GDOs are designed to ‘drive’ their modified genes into wild populations, by enforcing their own propagation to all offspring and circumventing the rules of inheritance. Examples under investigation are malaria mosquitoes modified to breed only males and thus die out, invasive mice similarly modified to die out, mice modified to prevent their ticks conferring Lyme disease to humans, or weeds modified to take away their resistance to weedkillers. However, the study shows that many claimed features of gene drives are unrealistic and carry a high degree of scientific uncertainty and unpredictability. “Although the technology only exists in the lab, great promises on what gene drives will achieve once released in the wild, are already being made and propagated in the media and scientific publications, thereby overstretching expectation both among the public and among funders”, says Tamara Lebrecht.

The summary of the study is available at https://genedrives.ch/report.

The complete study will be available on May 24 at https://genedrives.ch/report.

The symposium is still open for registration; for details see https://genedrives.ch/symposium/.

For preliminary reporting, interview request and accreditation for the symposium please contact Tamara Lebrecht at lebrecht@criticalscientists.ch

Press contact

Tamara Lebrecht

Executive secretary of CSS and author of the study

lebrecht@criticalscientists.ch

+41 (0) 31 372 02 80

14.05.2019 |

Russia joins in global gene-editing bonanza

A US$1.7-billion programme aims to develop 30 gene-edited plant and animal varieties in the next decade.

Russia is embracing gene-editing. A 111-billion-rouble (US$1.7-billion) federal programme aims to create 10 new varieties of gene-edited crops and animals by 2020 — and another 20 by 2027.

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Barley and beets

The decree lists four crops — barley, sugar beet, wheat and potatoes — as priorities. Russia is the world’s biggest producer of barley and a major producer of the other three, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

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Yi Li, a plant scientist at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, says that the programme’s launch is “a significant move” both for Russia and the world. He says that it could prompt China to invest more in gene-editing technologies, and help to fuel growing enthusiasm for such technologies in the United States. “For European countries, this can be a very interesting development in the light of the European court of justice ruling on genome editing,” he adds.

13.05.2019 |

Gene drive organisms: What Africa should know about actors, motives and threats to biodiversity and food systems

The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has produced a briefing paper in regard to a new and controversial genetic engineering (GE) technology to produce gene drive organisms (GDOs). These GDOs have been specifically designed to spread an engineered, ‘modified’ genetic trait such as sterility, with the potential to eradicate entire wildlife populations and even species. The briefing is also available in French.

Deploying gene drives to eliminate malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes is proposed by the Target Malaria project, which is funded inter alia by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As part of a ‘phased’ approach, Target Malaria plans to release gene drive mosquitoes in a third phase, following a first-phase release of 10,000 non-gene drive sterile GM mosquitoes in Burkina Faso. This release of the GM (non gene drive) mosquitoes was planned for 2018 but due to community resistance in Burkina Faso, as well as reported technical difficulties experienced by the Target Malaria project, the release has not yet taken place.

12.05.2019 |

Seeds from Bt brinjal trials not deposited with govt body

The use of GM crops is contentious, with arguments existing on both sides. Still, with India not allowing the use of genetically modified brinjal, the developments in Haryana are a clear violation of the law.

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The “biotech industry’s strategy of ‘leak illegal seeds first, contaminate and spread the cultivation and present a fait accompli’ for obtaining approval is well known. It did this with Bt cotton in India,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, convener of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture.

11.05.2019 |

2,000-kg HT cotton seeds seized, company MD held

HYDERABAD: Confirming the worst fears of Telangana government that unapproved herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton seed is making its way into the state and farmers are using HT seed on a large scale, a whopping 2,005 kilos of HT cotton seed was seized near Secunderabad railway station on Friday.

Managing director of a seed company and a driver were arrested in a joint operation conducted by Task Force police and agriculture department officials.

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