GMO news related to United Kingdom

14.09.2020 |

Why the UK could end up deploying risky gene drives while ignoring natural biological control

First they cloned Dolly the sheep. Now they’re targeting grey squirrels. Report: Jonathan Matthews

This summer 78 environmental, agricultural, animal welfare and development organisations from all over Europe called on the European Union to outlaw the release of Gene Drive Organisms in the EU and internationally, warning that reprogramming or eradicating entire animal populations posed grave risks. They’re hoping that the European Union will respect the precautionary principle and reject the release into the wild of this application of ecosystem-level genetic engineering, given its many unexplored risks.

But what about deployment of gene drives in the UK? After all, the UK government deliberately avoided transferring the precautionary principle into post-Brexit law. And given that it has made “liberating” biotechnology a flagship goal and has already begun a push to deregulate gene-editing, it seems highly unlikely that it would support a moratorium.

03.08.2020 |

Gene editing: Unexpected outcomes and risks

Technical advisor: Dr Michael Antoniou

More papers have been published on unintended outcomes and risks of gene editing in medical research on human and animal cells and laboratory animals, compared with plants. The results have implications for the gene editing of farm animals. The problems found with human and animal gene editing are increasingly being confirmed in plant gene editing.

The unintended mutational (DNA damaging) outcomes summarized below occur after the gene-editing tool has completed its task of creating a double-strand DNA break. The mutations occur as a consequence of the cell’s DNA repair machinery, over which the genetic engineer has no control. So even if scientists eventually succeed in avoiding off-target mutations, most of the unintended mutations described can still occur at the intended gene-editing site.

01.08.2020 |

GMO promoter Krebs misleads the BBC and the British public on gene editing

Makes inflated promises and false claims for an unproven technology

Below is a transcript of what the GMO promoter and member of the UK’s House of Lords, John Krebs, told the BBC in an interview about the government's intention to deregulate gene editing so that it's no longer defined and regulated as a genetic modification technique.

Krebs was a supporter of the amendment to the Agriculture Bill, which aimed to deregulate gene editing. While the amendment was withdrawn, ministers have voiced the government's intention to take up the deregulation of gene editing issue, starting with a public consultation in the autumn.

02.07.2020 |

Genome editing: Scientifically indefensible, anti-democratic, and harmful to trade

The amendment to the Agriculture Bill seeking to de-regulate gene-edited foods and crops should be discarded

An amendment has been tabled[1] in the UK House of Lords to the Agriculture Bill, seeking to change the definition of a genetically modified organism (GMO) in the UK’s Environmental Protection Act (1990) in order to exempt certain types of new genetic modification techniques, such as gene editing, from GMO regulations, within the context of “Agriculture Research”. This would mean that certain types of genetically modified organisms, including gene-edited ones, would escape safety checks and labelling. The Agriculture Bill will go to the committee stage in the House of Lords on 7 July.

02.07.2020 |

UK: Ask Ministers to reject plans to deregulate genome editing

What’s happening

A new Agriculture Bill is making its way through Parliament. An amendment has been tabled that would give the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (currently George Eustice) the power to change the definition of a GMO and re-classify many forms of genome editing as non-GM. That would mean that those techniques were no longer regulated (meaning no safety checks or GM labelling) and could be used on our farms or in our food without our knowledge or consent.

GM Freeze is working in partnership with Beyond GM and GMWatch to oppose this amendment and other attempts to deregulate the use of genome editing in our food or on our farms.

08.06.2020 |

Don't de-regulate risky gene editing, scientists tell Eustice

Amendment to the Agriculture Bill without full Commons debate is "violation of the political process that is not acceptable in a parliamentary democracy"

A group of MPs, peers and the GMO research establishment is urging the government to introduce genome editing into UK food and farming by sidestepping parliamentary and public scrutiny, as Pat Thomas and Lawrence Woodward of Beyond GM recently reported.

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If adopted, the Amendment would open the door to the deregulation of genetically engineered crops and animals produced using gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR.

The Amendment has not been debated in the Commons and its attachment to the Bill at this late stage of its passage through Parliament appears to be a blatant attempt to avoid a full and open debate on a crucial issue with widespread implications for the farming and food sector and consumer choice.

Now two scientists familiar with gene-editing technologies have written an Open Letter to George Eustice asking him to reject the Amendment and not propose it to the Lords.

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.

19.01.2020 |

GM food: Keep EU rules or risk health, says gene expert

A war of words has broken out among some of Britain’s leading scientists over the safety of genetically modified crops and livestock.

It follows a warning by a genome researcher at King’s College London that Crispr, the “high-precision” gene-editing technology that is revolutionising DNA research, is less precise than has been claimed and could create mutant crops that produce toxic or carcinogenic proteins.

Michael Antoniou, head of King’s gene expression and therapy group, said that after Brexit ministers should retain the tough EU rules that have blocked most genetically modified crops and livestock from commercial use.

13.03.2019 |

CRISPR spin-off causes unintended mutations in DNA

DNA base editors not as safe as previously thought

The past few years have seen a large number of research articles showing that the CRISPR gene-editing tool, designed to make a double-strand break in the DNA in a targeted location, may also cause many unintended mutations (damage to DNA).

Genetic engineers have tried to get around this problem by adapting the CRISPR gene-editing tool so that it no longer makes a double-strand break in the DNA. One adaptation consists of piggybacking onto the CRISPR tool an enzyme that changes individual DNA bases (so called “base editing”).

Base editing has been touted as a way of introducing changes in genes while avoiding the unintended effects, such as large deletions or rearrangements, which can arise from DNA repair processes following the usual CRISPR-induced double-strand DNA break.

22.01.2019 |

Application sent to Defra to conduct GM wheat trials

Researchers have applied to Defra for consent to conduct field trials of genetically modified (GM) wheat and gene-edited Brassica.

The two small-scale field trials are planned to take place at the John Innes Centre on the Norwich Research Park between April and September in each year from 2019 to 2022.

The wheat trial follows research at the John Innes Centre that identified a gene, TaVIT2 which encodes for an iron transporter in wheat.

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In the same application to Defra, researchers have requested consent to trial Brassica oleracea plants, modified using CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology.

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