News

16.06.2021 |

What is a ‘conventional GMO’?

EU Commission embraces new industry-led terminology

16 June 2021 / Testbiotech is today publishing a backgrounder showing how the EU Commission is trying to establish new official terminology which is set to cause ‘fundamental confusion’ in regulation. Experts with close affiliations to the biotech industry were the first to introduce the new term ‘conventional GMO’ to imply that the methods used in genetic engineering would have no inherent generic risks. This term was then embraced in an EU Commission report without any explanation or justification. A possible consequence could be wide ranging deregulation of genetically engineered organisms ‘through the backdoor’.

The new ‘industry-friendly’ term is used in a Commission report on new genomic techniques (New GE), published in April 2021. The term ‘conventional GMO’ appears throughout the text as well as in the glossary, and is used to mean ‘transgenic’. This gives the impression that genetic engineering is as safe as conventional breeding.

This new terminology is in clear contradiction to a European Court of Justice ruling and EU GMO regulation: the well-established legal meaning of ‘conventional’ lies in the application of traditional breeding methods based on the usage of genetic diversity and natural biological mechanisms. The resulting characteristics can also occur naturally and are considered to be safe. Conversely, genetic engineering techniques are associated with specific inherent risks and can result in genetic changes unlikely to occur in nature.

11.06.2021 |

Mexico stalling GMO corn permits ahead of ban, says top farm lobby

MEXICO CITY, June 10 (Reuters) - Mexico is holding up import permits for GMO corn, the head of the country's main farm lobby told Reuters, saying the government intended to apply a GMO ban to the grain used in animal feed despite contradictory comments by a top U.S. official.

In an interview, National Farm Council President Juan Cortina said among hundreds of agricultural product import permits awaiting a resolution are at least eight for genetically modified corn even though the ban is not set to go into effect for three years.

"They're not giving us extensions, there haven't been any administrative changes, they just don't respond," said Cortina, referring to delays of up to two years from the Health Ministry's sanitary protection agency, COFEPRIS, which is responsible for approving the permits.

10.06.2021 |

Consistent, accessible, and timely information is necessary to ensure transparency

Bioceres announced Canadian approval of its HB4 soy via a press release on June 1st. As of June 10, notice of approvals by Health Canada and the CFIA do not appear on the respective websites. This minimal information should be posted simultaneously with notification of approvals sent to product developers.

The company Bioceres is also interested in commercializing their HB4 technology in wheat. As you are aware, the commercialization of genetically engineered wheat is of great concern to many farmers, agri-food and civil society organizations, and members of the public. If government notification of approval decisions does not occur before or simultaneously with notification to product developers, it is possible that Canadian farmers and other members of the public could find out about a first Canadian approval of a genetically engineered wheat from a company such as Bioceres rather than from the government. Without information immediately available from the regulatory departments, there would be considerable confusion, mistrust and, potentially, market harm. This scenario highlights the need for reliable, timely public notifications.

In our view, providing notifications of regulatory decisions to product developers before notifying the public results in a lack of transparency and suggests that the departments consider this information to be less important for the public.

09.06.2021 |

European Parliament calls for ban on gene drive technology

Precaution prevails in its report on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030

9.06.2021, Berlin - The European Parliament yesterday confirmedi it‘s precautionary stance towards the use of a new genetic engineering technology called gene drive. In its report on the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, adopted at the European Parliament’s plenary on 08.06.2021, Parliamentarians demand that „no releases of genetically engineered gene drive organisms should be allowed, including for nature conservation purposes, in line with the precautionary principle.“

09.06.2021 |

CRISPR/Cas Explainer Video 3: Risks (Part 1)

Genome editing applications (especially CRISPR/Cas) in crops are complex and controversially discussed topics. The videos from the „Project Genetic Engineering and the Environment” explain the basics of the technology, the possibilities and the risks associated with CRISPR/Cas gene scissors.

The content of the videos is intended to provide the basis for an informed debate.

We look forward to receiving your feedback and questions about the content of our videos! Just send an email to: info(at)fachstelle-gentechnik-umwelt.de

The risks associated with CRISPR/Cas are explained in two different videos. This video explains the first part of the risks of CRISPR/Cas considering unintended effects on the metabolism of plants and their interactions with ecosystems.

09.06.2021 |

Not ready to eat GMO animals? Then you might not want to order the salmon

Recently, I did something I had not done in a long time. I ate in a restaurant with my family. Actually, we ate on the outdoor patio, since my kids are too young to be vaccinated and we are somewhat more squeamish than average about COVID, but it was nevertheless a refreshing return to normality and a welcome rest from battling traffic on the way to the Delaware seashore.

I ordered a salad with blackened salmon. If we make the trip again, I will make a different choice.

That’s because last week, biotech company AquaBounty Technologies Inc. announced that it is harvesting several tons of genetically modified salmon, which will soon be sold at restaurants and other “away-from-home” dining retailers around the country. So far just one distributor — Philadelphia-based Samuels and Son Seafood—has reportedly said that it will be selling the novel salmon. But AquaBounty has announced plans to sell its salmon via “food service channels” across the Midwest and East Coast.

08.06.2021 |

Mexico wants to import non-GMO corn and US farmers say they can deliver it

Mexico's GMO corn ban presents an opportunity for US farmers to supply non-GMO corn south of the border. By Ken Roseboro

While US agribusiness groups are trying to pressure Mexico into abandoning their announced bans on glyphosate herbicide and imports of genetically modified corn by 2024, US suppliers of non-GMO seed and grain see an opportunity to supply Mexico with non-GMO corn.

"Could we supply Mexico? Absolutely," says Bill Niebur, president of High Fidelity Genetics, an Iowa-based non-GMO corn seed company. "In terms of acres, it's not a problem. Instead of criticizing Mexico, let's provide it to them."

Ken Dallmier, CEO of Clarkson Grain, an Illinois-based supplier of organic and non-GMO grains, agrees. "Given time and focus, I think it's completely feasible," he says. "Mexico is a key trading partner, and all the logistics of Mexican grain import come through the US. It's matter of planning and market."

07.06.2021 |

EU Countries Support the Deregulation of New GMOs

Last week, EU Member States welcomed the alarming Commission’s study on “New Genomic Techniques”, which suggests certain new GMOs to be exempt from rigorous safety assessments. Slow Food sees this disappointing conclusion as a proof of the EU’s resort to biotechnologies as a silver bullet for current food system problems and calls on the EU institutions to keep new genomic techniques strictly regulated.

06.06.2021 |

The European Commission’s Working Document on “New Genomic Techniques” POLICY BRIEF

On 29 April 2021, the European Commission published a report in which it concluded that new GMOs or New Genomic Techniques (NGT) “could provide benefits for EU Society” including improving the sustainability of our food systems, and that the current EU GMO rules were no longer “fit for purpose”, paving the way for the deregulation of certain new GMO crops. Such deregulation could entail less stringent safety assessments of new GMOs as well as no longer requiring new GMOs to be labelled or traceable throughout the food supply chain, which currently ensure farmers’ and consumers’ freedom of choice.

What does the report say?

The report summarizes consultation responses submitted by EU member states and stakeholders (including civil society organizations, farmers’ associations and businesses), as well as various EU reports. The Commission’s investigation is clearly marked by an effort to suggest a balanced approach. However, there are clear indications that the study does want to set political accents that are serving industry interests:

05.06.2021 |

People’s Movements To Counter UN Summit; Call To Reclaim Food Systems From Corporate Control

On the occasion of World Environment Day, June 5, people’s movements and civil society organizations around the globe today launched the Global People’s Summit (GPS) on Food Systems, a counter-summit to the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) slated to be held later this year. Organisers of the GPS are among the hundreds of CSOs and indigenous peoples organizations who have previously voiced criticisms of the UNFSS for its ties to big businesses and exclusion of small rural food producers.

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