News

30.09.2020 |

GMO Bt crops on the chopping block due to insect resistance

EPA proposes phasing out dozens of Bt corn and cotton products

There is now just ONE Bt trait left on the market without documented insect resistance.

Even the claim that Bt seeds reduced insecticide use pre-resistance was questionable, as Bt seeds are mostly treated with neonicotinoid insecticides – neonic seed treatments rose in parallel with Bt crops.

30.09.2020 |

Lobby activities disguised as science

Questionable Statement of Leopoldina and DFG on New GE

30 September 2020 / In a letter to the president of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Prof. Dr. Gerald Haug, Testbiotech has raised some serious questions in relation to a virtual conference planned by Leopoldina and the German Research Foundation (DFG). The organisers plan to present a ‘Statement’ on new genetic engineering techniques (New GE, also called genome editing) and plant breeding during the conference. The authors of the ‘Statement’ claim that there are no specific risks associated with the application of genetic engineering in plant breeding and are demanding changes to EU GMO regulation. As a consequence, most genetically engineered organisms would no longer undergo mandatory risk assessment and approval process as requested by current EU regulation.

30.09.2020 |

Gates Foundation doubles down on misinformation campaign at Cornell as African leaders call for agroecology

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded another $10 million last week to the controversial Cornell Alliance for Science, a communications campaign housed at Cornell that trains fellows in Africa and elsewhere to promote and defend genetically engineered foods, crops and agrichemicals. The new grant brings BMGF grants to the group to $22 million.

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Doubling down on PR efforts

Against this backdrop, the Gates Foundation is doubling down on its investment in the Cornell Alliance for Science (CAS), a public relations campaign launched in 2014 with a Gates grant and promises to “depolarize the debate” around GMOs. With the new $10 million, CAS plans to widen its focus “to counter conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns that hinder progress in climate change, synthetic biology, agricultural innovations and other key issues.”

But CAS has become a polarizing force and a source of misinformation as it trains fellows around the world to promote and lobby for genetically engineered crops in their home countries, many of them in Africa.

29.09.2020 |

A judge just dismissed efforts to stop pesticides and GMO crops from being used in wildlife refuges

Salon spoke with experts who discussed the ecological consequences of the federal court's decision

A Washington federal court last week dismissed a lawsuit against the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service after a pair of nonprofit groups sued the agency for reversing previous bans on specific insecticides and genetically modified organisms (GMO) in national wildlife refuges.

"It's incredibly disappointing, but this case was intended to look at this issue at a national level, and what the court said is you need to go and look at it at a case specific level," Hannah Connor, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Health Program, told Salon. "So as it's done individually, and that means that there's going to be a limited review of the actual impacts of this decision across the refuge system, which will only detriment wildlife and the habitat that they crave to be able to survive."

23.09.2020 |

Gene drives: Navigating perils of engineered eradication, with Christoph Then

Imagine a world without natural enemies like parasites or deadly pathogens. Where crops grow unfettered by rodent and insect pests. Advances in genetic engineering now hold the possibility to alter genomes at the population level, but is it too good to be true? A critical review in the September 2020 issue of IEAM delves into environmental risk assessments for controversial gene drives in the European Union. Lead author Christoph Then talks with us about the challenges facing risk assessors of gene drives and a potential cut-off criteria presented in the study. Access the article in the September 2020 issue of IEAM.

17.09.2020 |

Open letter: Commission turning blind eye to new GMOs

88 civil society and farmers organisations from across Europe are today warning the EU Commission is turning a blind eye to new GMOs and demanding EU health and food safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides keeps new GMOs regulated, in an open letter.

The controversial new generation of food genetic engineering techniques should be subject to EU safety checks and consumer labelling, according to an EU Court of Justice ruling, but the organisations complain the European Commission is not implementing this ruling.

17.09.2020 |

Genome Editing Pioneer Violated Biosafety Rules

Official documents reveal that Daniel Voytas, a professor at the University of Minnesota and the co-inventor of the genome editing tool TALENs, has been found to have violated basic laboratory biosafety rules for a period of more than two years.

Unapproved and unsupervised genetic engineering in the Voytas lab appears to have included the development of a new commercial technique for rapid production of gene edited plants called Fast-Treated Agrobacterium Co-Culture, or “Fast-TrACC”. The patent-pending technique has been licensed by the University of Minnesota to Calyxt, a controversial biotechnology company co-founded by Voytas and where he serves as Chief Science Officer.

15.09.2020 |

Gene edited crop can’t stand the light of day

On 7 September, Greenpeace and others announced an open source detection test for the first gene-edited crop on the market, SU Canola, developed by US company Cibus. The test was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Foods.

SU Canola is a rapeseed engineered with oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis (ODM), a gene editing technique, to withstand spraying with certain herbicides. Products of gene editing fall within the scope of EU GMO law, according to a European Court of Justice ruling of 2018.

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.

09.09.2020 |

Radical transformation of our agricultural system needed, not GMOs

A GREENS/EFA PERSPECTIVE ON GENOME EDITING IN AGRICULTURE

Biodiversity and ecosystems are under extreme threat, with around one million species facing extinction. To avert the worst consequences of runaway climate change, urgent action needs to be taken now.

In order to respond to these unprecedented and closely interlinked crises, our food and agricultural systems need to be rapidly transformed. High input, industrial farming based on monocultures and factory farming must be replaced by high biodiversity, locally adapted food production systems, ones which produce healthy food while respecting animal welfare and the environment.

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