News

30.06.2020 |

78 organizations call on the European Commission to enact a temporary ban on the novel Gene Drive technology

Press release by Save Our Seeds / Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft, Berlin – Germany

Gene Drive technology: Species extinction through genetic engineering?

78 organizations call on the European Commission to enact a temporary ban on the novel Gene Drive technology.

30. June 2020

In an open letter initiated by Greenpeace EU, Friends of the Earth Europe, IFOAM EU and the German initiative Save Our Seeds, 78 environmental, agricultural, animal welfare and development aid organisations from all over Europe are calling on the EUCommission to outlaw the release of so-called Gene Drive Organisms in the EU and internationally. With this new application of genetic engineering, entire animal populations and species in nature could be reprogrammed or eradicated.

19.06.2020 |

German Green faction pushes for de-regulation of gene editing

Statements reveal scientific ignorance

A German Green faction wants to de-regulate gene editing (see article below from Euractiv.com). Clearly they have no idea of the scientific problems that are constantly unfolding with gene editing technologies, in the form of unintended on-target and off-target effects. These are summarised here. In the case of gene-edited foods and crops, these genetic errors could lead to unexpected toxicity or allergenicity.

One Green MEP states that “The current regulation is very contradictory,” on the grounds that that gene technologies such as CRISPR are used regularly in medical research but not for agriculture.

But it is dishonest and invalid to conflate the use of gene-editing technologies in the medical field with their use in agricultural biotech. In the medical field, all use of GMOs (including gene editing) must be "contained" – in other words, viable GMOs are not allowed to escape into the environment. And all medicines, GM or not, have to go through long and thorough safety tests before being allowed on the market – though we all know that even with those safeguards in place, much can still go wrong.

18.06.2020 |

Council abandons its GMO decision

The Northland Regional Council has reversed last year's decision, made on the casting vote of then chairman Bill Shepherd, not to include provisions to control genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the Coastal Marine Area (CMA) in its proposed regional plan.

The previous council, before October's local body elections, resolved not to include GMO provisions after a long process during which councillors heard and considered expert scientific evidence and feedback from more than 80 submissions over several years.

09.06.2020 |

CRISPR-edited rice shows wide range of unintended mutations

Gene-editing tool "not as precise as expected", say researchers in new study. Report: Claire Robinson

CRISPR gene editing in rice varieties caused a wide range of undesirable and unintended on-target and off-target mutations, according to an important new study authored by a Chinese and Australian team of scientists and published in the Journal of Genetics and Genomics.[1]

The researchers were trying to improve the yield of already high-performing varieties of rice by disrupting the function of a "green revolution" semi-dwarfing gene (SD1). They used a stable transformation method that ensured that the CRISPR editing tool remained active in the plants over four generations, so that they could examine the effects over time.

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.

04.06.2020 |

Genetically engineered microorganisms on the rise

Potential applications encompass humans, animals, plants and many ecosystems

4 June 2020 / The number of projects aiming to genetically engineer microorganisms has increased strongly in recent years. More effective techniques of analysis and re-synthesis of gene sequences can now be used as starting point for seeking new markets for ‘SynBio’ organisms. Projects include microorganisms which, for example, colonise the gut of humans or bees, live on the surface or inside plants or are abundant in soils. In addition, there is further ongoing research into viruses, bacteria or microbial fungi known as pathogens, which can be developed for use in vaccines, pesticides or for the military. The risks are especially relevant if SynBio microorganisms are allowed to spread without sufficient control.

03.06.2020 |

GMO debate is democratic test for liberalizing Ethiopia

As the government controversially opens Ethiopia to genetically modified crops, now is the time for newly unshackled civil society voices to lead the debate

A coalition of Ethiopian Civil Society Organizations and their global allies have launched a campaign against the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms in Ethiopia.

The public outcry started when United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service published a report that revealed that the government had approved commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) insect-resistant cotton (Bt-cotton) and confined trial of GM enset and maize in Ethiopia.

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On the ground, Ethiopia has the biggest national genebank in Africa, which was established in 1976. As of June 2019, the national genebank in Addis Ababa has conserved about 86,599 samples of seeds of over 100 species of plants (mainly food crops) that have been collected from all over the country. In two field genebanks, the country has conserved 5,644 samples of coffee plants.

29.05.2020 |

Profiting from health and ecological crisis in Africa: The Target Malaria project and new risky GE technologies

Second-generation GMOs produced from gene drive technologies, genome editing, paratransgenesis and cisgenesis are increasing the scope, scale, depth and flexibility of interventions that can be performed by the biotech industry, including genetically engineering of wild populations and ecosystems. Research and development (R&D) projects are largely financed by European and North American institutions; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); and the US military research arm – the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

29.05.2020 |

Global Gene Drive Moratorium: Federal Council Must Act

An alliance of 30 organizations calls on the Federal Council to advocate a global moratorium on the release of gene drive organisms (GDO) at the UN Biodiversity Conference. Switzerland's negotiating mandate, which the Federal Council and the administration are currently working on, is setting the course for the conference. A moratorium on gene drives is imperative to protect biodiversity and finally put agriculture on an ecological path. Rethinking is the order of the day - the Corona crisis shows that once again.

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Gene Drives: Destructive and uncontrollable

Gene drives are the most dangerous application of the new genetic engineering processes to date, because they can be used to bypass the laws of biological inheritance. The genetic chain reaction that the CRISPR / Cas gene scissors use was developed to genetically modify natural populations. The application should deliberately not be limited to the laboratory or the field, but should change or even eradicate naturally occurring species. Gene drives are invasive and irreversible, but their effectiveness is questionable and has not been verified. The risks of technology for people and the environment are still largely unexplored today. Given their aggressiveness and enormous range of effects, the consequences of a release could be devastating for biodiversity.

28.05.2020 |

GM Fungi to kill Mosquitoes: Illegal experiments in Burkina Faso?

Conducted silently and out of the public eye, a three-year experiment involving a new and potentially unsafe and risky genetically modified (GM) fungus to kill mosquitoes was performed in the village of Soumousso in Burkina Faso in 2019. When the study was published in a US scientific journal in May 2019, a media frenzy broke out, heralding the experiments as a breakthrough cure for malaria.

The GM fungus was developed by introducing a toxin from the lethal Australian Blue Mountains funnel-web spider into the M. pingshaense fungus, to ostensibly increase the efficiency of the fungus to kill mosquitoes and stave off malaria.

The use of GM fungi is offering a quicker route to the market than gene drive organisms, in a ‘new era of transgenic microbial control’. Indeed, the latest devastating locust infestation in East Africa has prompted calls for the use of GM fungus, with claims being made about the importation of non-GM and GM fungal biopesticides from China.

However, the GM fungus experiments raise many troubling legal, biosafety, ethical, political and human rights concerns, as detailed in the ACB’s new briefing .

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