News

01.04.2019 |

Population management using gene drive: molecular design, models of spread dynamics and assessment of ecological risks

Abstract

CRISPR gene drive has recently been proposed as a promising technology for population management, including in conservation genetics. The technique would consist in releasing genetically engineered individuals that are designed to rapidly propagate a desired mutation or transgene into wild populations. Potential applications in conservation biology include the control of invasive pest populations that threaten biodiversity (eradication and suppression drives), or the introduction of beneficial mutations in endangered populations (rescue drives). The propagation of a gene drive is affected by different factors that depend on the drive construct (e.g. its fitness effect and timing of expression) or on the target species (e.g. its mating system and population structure). We review potential applications of the different types of gene drives for conservation. We examine the challenges posed by the evolution of resistance to gene drives and review the various molecular and environmental risks associated with gene drives (e.g. propagation to non target populations or species and unintended detrimental ecosystem impacts). We provide some guidelines for future gene drive research and discuss ethical, biosafety and regulation issues.

31.03.2019 |

Gov’t urged to be ‘coherent on GMO policy’

Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) has called on the government to be coherent on its policy on genetically modified organisms (GMO).

FSG, a food safety campaigner, has also urged the government to be vigilant against deceptive media messages on alleged benefits of GMO introduction into Ghana’s food chain.

(.....)

The Daily Graphic newspaper last week reported the minister Dr. Akoto Owusu Afriyie as describing GMOs as a controversial subject which a section of Ghanaian society was seriously against.

He told a meeting of 19 African country directors of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Accra that “indeed, we don’t need it,” because Ghana is sufficient in terms of improved seeds.

31.03.2019 |

Where is Glyphosate Banned?

Updated March 2019

A number of cities, counties, states and countries throughout the world have taken steps to either restrict or ban glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.

The following countries have issued outright bans on glyphosate, imposed restrictions or have issued statements of intention to ban or restrict glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup, over health concerns and the ongoing Roundup cancer litigation.

29.03.2019 |

Canada doesn’t label GMO foods even though 88% of us say we should

GMOs are on the market, but not labelled in Canada

In the late 1990s, the first genetically modified organisms (GMOs) came on the market. They were genetically engineered for two main reasons: to create insecticidal crops (i.e. plants that produce their own insecticide) and to make plants that can survive herbicide spraying.

My mom was skeptical about the industry’s promise of higher yields and reduced need for pesticides. She wanted to learn more, and her insatiable curiosity was contagious. I soon found myself exchanging books with her, attending conferences and learning as much as I could about these new foods. But it was only after living in Europe for two years, where the law mandates that GMOs be clearly labelled on food products, that I began to ask why, if they are labelled in 64 countries around the world, we don’t do the same here in Canada.

27.03.2019 |

Monsanto found liable for California man's cancer and ordered to pay $80m in damages

Agrochemical corporation found responsible for Roundup weedkiller’s health risks in ‘bellwether’ federal trial

A federal jury ruled that Monsanto was liable for a California man’s cancer and ordered the Roundup manufacturer to pay $80m in damages.

The ruling on Wednesday, which holds the company responsible for the cancer risks of its popular weedkiller, is the first of its kind in US federal court and a major blow to Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer. A representative said Bayer would appeal.

In a verdict during an earlier phase of the trial, the jury in San Francisco unanimously ruled that the herbicide was a “substantial factor” in causing the cancer of Edwin Hardeman.

27.03.2019 |

Andriukaitis: New plant breeding techniques need new regulatory framework

The ‘new plant breeding techniques’ need new EU legislation that takes into account the latest advanced technologies, EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis told EURACTIV.com, adding there was too much manipulation and “scare-mongering” around the issue.

“From my point of view, we need a new legal regulatory framework for these new techniques,” Andriukaitis said, adding that it should be dealt with by the new European Commission after the EU elections in May.

New plant breeding techniques, developed in the last decade, allow the development of new plant varieties by modifying the DNA of the seeds and plant cells.

In July 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that organisms obtained by mutagenesis, or gene editing, plant breeding technique are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and should, in principle, fall under the GMO Directive.

The decision was a victory for environmentalists but it shocked the industry, while EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan told EURACTIV he was “surprised” by the ruling.

26.03.2019 |

Media Release: New Report Documents Impacts of GM Contamination in Canada

New Report Documents Impacts of GM Contamination in Canada

Groups call for deregistration of genetically modified alfalfa

March 26, 2019 – Regina.

Since genetically modified (GM) crops were introduced into Canadian agriculture almost 25 years ago, GM contamination has had significant economic consequences, according to a report published today by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) and the SaskOrganics’ Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (OAPF) Committee. The report calls for action to prevent future contamination incidents.

“GM Contamination in Canada: The failure to contain living modified organisms – incidents and impacts” documents the details and impacts of all the known contamination incidents in Canada involving GM crops and animals. The costs of GM contamination and escape incidents include the temporary or permanent loss of export markets, lower crop prices, the loss of access to grow a particular crop, and the loss of some farm-saved seed.

25.03.2019 |

Gene-silencing GMO dsRNA insecticides can be taken up by soil microbes

Study finds new insecticides don't degrade as efficiently as previously thought

Genetic engineers are developing new types of insecticides based on dsRNA (double-stranded RNA). They are intended to work by reducing (“silencing”) the expression of target genes of insect pests through a mechanism called RNA interference (RNAi), resulting in the death of the pests.

They can either be genetically engineered into the plant or sprayed on.

However, scientists have not understood what happens to these insecticides once they contact the soil. Do they break down easily or persist, potentially affecting soil organisms?

A new study by researchers at Washington University in St Louis, USA and ETH Zurich, Switzerland, gives some answers.

The researchers looked at the fate of dsRNA in different types of soil. They found that in some soils, enzymes in the soil can break down the insecticide and microbes can eat it, meaning that the dsRNA insecticide degrades.

23.03.2019 |

Schulze Klöckner attacks due to glyphosate’s approval

In the dispute over the approval of a glyphosate-containing Unkrautgifts the Federal environment Minister, Svenja Schulze (SPD) has accused the Federal agriculture Minister, Julia Klöckner (CDU) unauthorized Action.

“Normally, we do this together, it has issued without the approval of my authorities, as a permit,” said Schulze, in an Interview the week of the Deutschlandfunk to be broadcast on Sunday. “I can’t.” In the coalition agreement is clearly stipulated that Germany should get out of glyphosate.

22.03.2019 |

Los Angeles bans Monsanto’s Roundup after latest jury ruling in cancer trial

Los Angeles county authorities have banned all use of notorious weed killer glyphosate – the herbicide better known by its Monsanto/Bayer trade name, Roundup – after a second court ruling linking it to a man’s cancer.

“I am asking county departments to stop the use of this herbicide until public health and environmental professionals can determine if it’s safe for further use in L.A. County and explore alternative methods for vegetation management,” Kathryn Barger of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said.

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