News

08.05.2019 |

Danish Council on Ethics attacks EU's GMO regulations

Council was advised – and misled – by scientists whose links to the GMO industry were not disclosed to the public

The Danish Council on Ethics has published a report recommending that the EU's GMO legislation be changed to facilitate the introduction of gene-edited plants on the grounds that they could help achieve sustainability objectives. The report calls for the current process-based regulation to be abolished in favour of much weaker product-based regulation.

However, GMWatch has discovered that two external advisors on the report have links to the GMO industry, which were not disclosed to the public.

24.04.2019 |

Local company stirs controversy through marketing gene-edited foods

A company co-founded by a University professor has begun distributing gene-edited soybean oil, which is used by an undisclosed Midwest food chain.

Because of the contributions to one company by a University of Minnesota professor, a major Midwest food chain is quietly introducing a genetically edited soybean oil, causing controversy in the agriculture and food industries.

The oil was invented by the Minnesota-based biotechnology company Calyxt, which was co-founded by University professor Dan Voytas.The release of this oil has sparked debate among food industry experts and activists about whether gene-edited foods should be subject to the same regulations as food containing genetically modified organisms.

According to an Associated Press article published last month, an undisclosed Midwest fast food chain is using this soybean oil in food preparation. Gene-edited foods are not regulated like GMOs, and critics worry this may lead to unforeseen environmental consequences and health impacts.

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Dana Perls is the senior food and agriculture campaigner with Friends of the Earth, an organization that advocates for sustainable and organic agriculture practices. Perls said the consequences of gene-editing can be dire and that gene-editing should be classified as genetic modification.

“Many of these genetic engineering proposals are being bolstered by company PR and investor hype. There is robust scientific evidence that shows new genetic engineering techniques like gene-editing are resulting in potentially dangerous consequences and genetic havoc, genetic mutation and unpredictable consequences,” Perls said.

The fact that Calyxt will not disclose the identity of the major food chain for what they claim are competitive reasons is a concern to Perls. It is unknown whether that restaurant discloses to consumers they use gene-edited food products.

“We need a model for strong regulation and we need to let consumers know what they’re eating. People deserve the right to decide what they’re feeding their families and themselves,” Perls said.

18.04.2019 |

Fierce opposition to Corteva’s 2,4-D GM maize seed

Press Release from the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB)

18 April 2019, Johannesburg South Africa

The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has lodged a strenuous objection to three simultaneous applications by Corteva (previously Dow AgroSciences) for permits from the South African biosafety authorities to allow the commercial sale and cultivation of genetically modified (GM) maize seed resistant to the war chemical 2,4-D, as well as to glyphosate, glufosinate and quizalofop. due to grave concerns surrounding the biosafety risks they pose to human health and the environment.

Publication CoverThese join a long line of applications for GMOs to be grown in, and imported into, South Africa. If approved, they will further entrench the current ecologically unsustainable and socially unjust industrial food system, reinforcing corporate capture, control, and consolidation and monopoly of our seed and food systems and pollute our food, bodies and lands with war chemicals.

17.04.2019 |

Industry studies behind EU food safety assessments must be public

Defeat for agribusiness lobby

The European Parliament voted today to introduce new transparency rules for EU food safety assessments, as part of the EU’s "general food law". The amended law will oblige the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to publish the industry studies used in European safety evaluations of products that can end up in food – such as pesticides, GMOs and animal feed additives.

Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “The chemical industry will still test the safety of their own products, but at least now the studies will be published so that independent scientists can scrutinise their contents and the advice EFSA gives to lawmakers. EFSA has in the past privileged corporate interests over the public’s right to know, so we will be watching closely to see that the new rules are properly applied.”

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Corporate Europe Observatory commented, "This victory is the result of many years of campaigning by scientists and citizens, in particular the Stop Glyphosate European Citizens Initiative (ECI). While this reform should have been much broader, it is a rare defeat for agribusiness lobbyists, despite their attempt to derail and hollow out the measure. But the battle isn’t over, because industry will be looking for loopholes, and we will have to ensure this transparency law is meaningfully implemented."

16.04.2019 |

Gene-edited livestock: consumers may say no

Relocating to countries with less-stringent regulatory systems to work on gene editing of farm animals might seem attractive (see Nature 566, 433–434; 2019), but could be short-sighted. The technology’s potential for increasing food security — by improving animals’ drought tolerance, say — can be realized only if the public agrees to it.

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National legislators must recognize the public as a valued stakeholder in all such experiments, wherever they are conducted.

Nature 568, 316 (2019)

12.04.2019 |

An unlikely feud between beekeepers and Mennonites simmers in Mexico

Survival is at stake as Mennonite colonies’ illegal soy farms threaten the livelihood of Maya beekeepers.

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Mexico is the world’s fourth largest producer of honey and much of that comes from the Yucatán, where indigenous Maya have kept bees for centuries. Today, it’s a main source of income for thousands of families. Some 15,000 tons of honey leave the Yucatán annually for the European Union. At the same time that Mexico approved GM soy plantings, Europe announced that honey shipments would be tested for GMO traces, labeled, and possibly rejected. This foray into transgenics and the accompanying harsh pesticides made beekeepers nervous. Then, as they began to observe the effects on their bees, it made them furious. (Read about Nepal’s last death-defying honey hunter.)

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In the Yucatán, issues of pesticides, deforestation, and land ownership tangle into one, and both beekeepers and Mennonites see their livelihoods at stake. The governments of all three Yucatán states have pledged to end deforestation and begin restoring land on the peninsula by 2030. But a recent effort by the local Yucatán government to create a statewide GMO-free zone was challenged in court by the federal government. A new administration took power this year and some beekeepers see promise in it. In meetings this winter, they asked officials to ban chemicals known to harm bees, along with aerial spraying, and to support organic farmers.

11.04.2019 |

French court finds Monsanto guilty of poisoning farmer

Ruling says chemicals giant knew of weedkiller’s dangers but label lacked warning

A French appeals court has said US chemicals giant Monsanto was guilty of poisoning a farmer who said he suffered neurological damage after accidentally inhaling fumes from a weedkiller made by the company.

Paul François, a cereal farmer, had already won previous lawsuits against Monsanto, which was bought by Germany’s Bayer last year, in 2012 and 2015.

He said he fell ill in 2004 after being exposed to Lasso, a weedkiller containing monochlorobenzene that was legal in France until 2007 but had already been banned in 1985 in Canada and in 1992 in Belgium and Britain.

08.04.2019 |

Gene Drive Symposium Which path do we want to take as a society?

Gene Drive Symposium
Gene Drive Symposium

Fri, 24 May 2019

09:15 – 18:15 CEST

Eventforum Bern

12 Fabrikstrasse

3012 Bern

Switzerland

Gene drive technology raises fundamental ecological, social, ethical and legal questions which will be discussed on the symposium.

Gene Drives have the potential to circumvent the rules of inheritance in order to quickly and fundamentally alter wild populations or species or to exterminate them altogether. An idea that has long existed, may soon become reality with the help of new genetic enigineering techniques, such as CRISPR-Cas9.

It has been claimed that gene drive technology may be used to combat infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue or zika, as well as to reduce the threat posed by agricultural pests and ecologically harmful invasive species.

However, a crucial difference with conventional gene technology is that gene drives intentionally target wild populations in order to permanently alter them. Gene drives are a technology that raises fundamental ecological, social, ethical and legal questions:

Are the promised goals achievable?

What environmental implications could we face if we were to eliminate populations or species using gene drives?

Are there dispensable species?

Who gets to decide?

What are the consequences of making such attempts if they are unsuccessful?

Are the appropriate regulations in place?

Which path do we want to take as a society?

A working group of international scientists, philosophers and legal experts has extensively considered these questions. The outcome of this process will be presented for discussion at the Gene Drive Symposium.

Get more information about the symposium on our website.

https://genedrives.ch/

With

Ignacio Chapela, Lim Li Ching, Kevin M. Esvelt, Thomas Potthast, Christopher J. Preston, Klaus Peter Rippe, Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ricarda Steinbrecher, Helen Wallace and Fern Wickson

07.04.2019 |

Roundup causes kidney toxicity but glyphosate does not

Another study shows that glyphosate-based herbicide formulations, such as Roundup, are far more toxic than the isolated "active ingredient" glyphosate

An important study in rats compared the toxicity to the kidneys of the herbicide formulation Roundup with that of its active ingredient glyphosate. The study found that Roundup caused kidney toxicity, whereas glyphosate alone did not.

The study is one of several showing that the complete glyphosate herbicide formulations, which contain additives called adjuvants, are more toxic than glyphosate alone.

The problem is that regulatory approvals of glyphosate-based herbicides are based on long-term toxicity studies that are carried out with the active ingredient glyphosate alone and not with the formulations.

05.04.2019 |

French rapeseed farmers destroyed 18,000 hectares over GMO risk: Bayer

PARIS (Reuters) - French farmers destroyed a total of 18,000 hectares of rapeseed, more than double the area initially expected, following the discovery of a non-authorized genetically modified organism (GMO) in seeds, German group Bayer said.

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A spokeswoman for Bayer, which had previously estimated around 8,000 hectares of rapeseed would be lost in France, said on Friday the area had reached 18,000 hectares after further precautionary removals of crops, for example when there were doubts over the traceability of seeds.

The latest figures in Germany showed the area of rapeseed destroyed there was 2,150 hectares, slightly lower than initial expectations of 2,500-3,000 hectares, Bayer said on Monday.

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