GMO news related to Germany

16.08.2019 |

Conference: “Science, Precaution, Innovation - towards the integrated governance of new technologies”, 14-15 October, Bielefeld

European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility

Conference on the Precautionary Principle:

“Science, Precaution, Innovation - towards the integrated governance of new technologies”

When: 14-15 October 2019

Where: Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF), Methoden 1, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany

Program: www.ensser.org/pp-conference

Register at registration [at] ensser.org

The Precautionary Principle (PP) concerns situations where the available scientific information about possible harm from human-made innovations gives decision-makers reasonable grounds to suspect possible harm to human health, the environment or biodiversity, but where scientific certainty is lacking. The PP in such situations lawfully justifies decision makers taking precautionary measures to avoid such harm.

Although enshrined in the EU treaty and formally a pillar of EU policy, the PP is often ignored, misinterpreted or violated by the EU Commission and member states. The introduction in recent years of a so called “innovation principle” may well erode this science-based standard and prioritize particularly powerful incumbent economic interests over the high level of protection provided in the EU Treaty. Truly sustainable innovations, however, require conformity with the PP, and a more comprehensive assessment of what (if any) social benefits, and which social needs, may be met.

In this conference we will present and critically appraise examples which illustrate the importance of the PP and discuss what is required to ensure that it will be used wisely and more frequently. Viable paths to a reasonable confidence of no harm to public health, biodiversity and the environment will be identified and explored by reference to currently available knowledge, while acknowledging that strict proof of safety is an illusory goal. Examples including pesticide use, genetically modified crops, electromagnetic fields, endocrine disrupting compounds and nanotechnology will be presented by eminent speakers and explored by the participants.

01.08.2019 |

Activities | Stop the patenting of plants and animals derived from conventional breeding!

In March 2019, the President of the European Patent Office (EPO) raised two questions at the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO concerning patents on plants and animals derived from conventional breeding. The Enlarged Board of Appeal will now deal with these questions. Until 1 October 2019 statements can be filed. No Patents on Seeds! will file a detailed legal argumentation on these questions.

If you want to support the demand to stop the patenting of plants and animals derived from conventional breeding, you can sign the open letter below online. Alternatively you can print the letter as a pdf (see below) and send it to „Keine Patente auf Saatgut!“ / Frohschammerstraße 14 / 80807 Munich, Germany. The letters and the signatures will then be handed over to the EPO until 1 October 2019.

Organizations, who want to support the letter, are kindly asked to send an email to johanna.eckhardt@no-patents-on-seeds.org.

Detailed info about the questions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal can be found in the background document.

26.06.2019 |

Opposition against patent on salmon and trout

26 June 2019 / A broad coalition of over 30 organizations backed by over 5000 individual supporters have today filed an opposition against a patent on salmon and trout (EP1965658). They are asking for the patent to be revoked in its entirety since they do not consider it to be a technical invention but simply patented plagiarism.

The patent claims salmon and trout reared with selected plants to increase the level of unsaturated fatty acids in their muscle tissue. These fatty acids are considered beneficial to human health. The selected plants used in the salmon feed include common wild herbs and flowering plants e.g. borage and species of echium, or others such as evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) and black currants (Ribes nigrum). However, there is nothing new about these plants showing naturally high concentrations of suitable fatty acids.

(.....)

No patents on seeds! is calling for politicians to take responsibility and to change the law if necessary. In future, it should be made impossible to grant patents on conventionally bred plants and animals. It is feared that these patents will primarily serve the interests of large corporations, such as Bayer, who will ultimately take control of agriculture and food production.

12.06.2019 |

Patent applications covering ‘seeds to meat’ and from ‘maize to milk’

Patent on salmon and trout is not just an isolated case

12 June 2019 / The patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) covering salmon and trout reared on specific plants (EP1965658) could now become a precedent for many other patent applications. Recent research shows several similar European patent applications are already pending, claiming food products, such as meat and milk, derived from animals fed with selected plants.

The patent on salmon and trout was granted in October 2018 and recently brought to public attention by “No Patents on Seeds!”. The patent monopoly covers the rearing and feeding of the fish, along with the fish itself. After learning of this case, No Patents on Seeds! researched similar patent applications. This research came to an alarming conclusion: there are several other European patent applications recently filed at the World Patent Institute (WIPO), all following a similar strategy. Starting with plants and feed, also the food products derived from farm animals are claimed as inventions.

For example, Syngenta not only claims genetically engineered maize as its ‘invention’ but also the production of milk and meat from animals fed with such plants: In patent WO2018204245, “a harvested cattle carcass” is part of the invention; and patent WO2019075028 claims a “method of increasing the amount of milk produced by a dairy animal”. While these patents rely on transgenic maize, others such as the patent on salmon also claim usage of conventionally bred plants.

23.05.2019 |

Stage set for new wave of genetically engineered plants to be approved and imported after EU elections

Outgoing EU Commission might approve several controversial applications before handing over

Thursday, 23 May 2019

More than 40 organisations from science, environmental protection, lobby control, food production and agriculture have today published a joint letter. They warn that the outgoing EU Commission might approve around a dozen genetically engineered plants on the basis of scientifically unacceptable risk assessment before handing over.

The letter has been signed by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL), Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND), Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE), Gene-Ethical Network (GeN), GeneWatch UK, Global 2000, Save our Seeds (SOS), Slow Food Germany, Testbiotech and many other civil society organisations. They are all demanding higher standards for the risk assessment of genetically engineered organisms. In this regard, the protection of health and the environment should be the highest priority.

At least twelve applications have been filed for approval, all of which have been assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Three of them concern genetically engineered maize that produce insecticidal toxins and are intended for use in cultivation. Amongst these is MON810 (Bayer/ Monsanto), which is already grown in Spain and awaiting re-authorisation. There is a risk of uncontrolled spread from these plants: a wild species related to maize (teosinte) has proliferated in Spain for a number of years. Maize and teosinte can hybridize and may produce offspring with unintended biological characteristics and new risks for the environment.

23.05.2019 |

43 organisations calling to halt further GMO approvals

Dear Members of the EU Commission

More than 40 organisations from science, environmental protection, lobby control, food production and agriculture are calling to halt the approval processes for the GMO applications currently pending.

We are concerned that the outgoing EU Commission might approve around a dozen genetically engineered plants on the basis of scientifically unacceptable risk assessment before handing over.

In the light of the findings as explained in the letter and backed by many EU Parliament resolutions, we ask you

- not to approve the pending applications based on current EFSA opinions;

- to prepare to establish higher standards for risk assessment, taking into account various gaps as identified;

- to prepare to re-organise the responsibility for the protection of health and the environment in the upcoming new EU Commission to make sure that the protection of health and the environment is given the highest priority in the GMO policy of the EU.

22.05.2019 |

International scientists urge precaution with gene drives: new study

Bern/Berlin, 21 May 2019

Gene drives should be treated with the utmost precaution, international scientists conclude in a new and comprehensive study which will be published and presented on May 24 in Bern. The emerging technology is currently not fit for application due to important uncertainties at the scientific, technical and practical levels and due to serious limitations with their functioning, the study shows.

Most gene drives are intended for release in the wild and their influence on ecosystems is unknown, potentially irreversible and very likely to cross national borders. “Existing biosafety rules are deficient and not fully equipped to manage the unique risks posed by gene drives”, says Lim Li Ching, expert on international regulation and an author of the study. Until effective, legally binding international regulation is in place, as well as genuine public engagement, no gene drive organisms (GDOs) should be released, the study recommends. “The public must be involved from the very beginning in defining the problems to be addressed and setting priorities, without an a priori preference for gene drives as a solution”, adds Tamara Lebrecht, project coordinator and another author of the study.

Rather than starting from the suggestion that gene drives will solve problems like invasive species or the spread of diseases like malaria, all available potential solutions and paths to development for such problems should be weighed against each other. Other solutions are often already available or around the corner but may miss the political will and/or funding needed for their development and application. Public interest, not private interest, should control gene drive development. In addition, the use of gene drives for harmful or military applications needs urgent public attention.

These are the prime conclusions of the study published by three independent scientific organisations: Critical Scientists Switzerland (CSS), European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) and Federation of German Scientists (FGS/VDW). Experts from the life sciences, environmental and agricultural sciences, philosophy and law have brought together current knowledge on the science, applications, social aspects, ethics and regulation of gene drives.

CRISPR/Cas, the new genetic engineering method, has allowed the idea of gene drives to be realised. GDOs are designed to ‘drive’ their modified genes into wild populations, by enforcing their own propagation to all offspring and circumventing the rules of inheritance. Examples under investigation are malaria mosquitoes modified to breed only males and thus die out, invasive mice similarly modified to die out, mice modified to prevent their ticks conferring Lyme disease to humans, or weeds modified to take away their resistance to weedkillers. However, the study shows that many claimed features of gene drives are unrealistic and carry a high degree of scientific uncertainty and unpredictability. “Although the technology only exists in the lab, great promises on what gene drives will achieve once released in the wild, are already being made and propagated in the media and scientific publications, thereby overstretching expectation both among the public and among funders”, says Tamara Lebrecht.

The summary of the study is available at https://genedrives.ch/report.

The complete study will be available on May 24 at https://genedrives.ch/report.

The symposium is still open for registration; for details see https://genedrives.ch/symposium/.

For preliminary reporting, interview request and accreditation for the symposium please contact Tamara Lebrecht at lebrecht@criticalscientists.ch

Press contact

Tamara Lebrecht

Executive secretary of CSS and author of the study

lebrecht@criticalscientists.ch

+41 (0) 31 372 02 80

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.

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.

15.03.2019 |

US example shows why "new GM" crop plants must be regulated

Risk assessments and labelling needed for each "new GMO" to protect people and environment

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has already given non-regulated status to more than 20 plants genetically engineered with so-called genome editing techniques, according to research by Testbiotech. None of the applications registered at USDA were referred for further more detailed assessment. The Testbiotech report published today shows that there are, however, significant differences in methods of production, traits, and risks of the non-regulated plants, in comparison to those derived from conventional breeding.

These differences are not caused by the newly introduced gene sequences but by the patterns of genetic changes. "Gene-scissors" such as CRISPR/Cas can delete whole families of gene variants all at once – but this is either impossible or barely possible with current conventional breeding methods. A further specific difference is that in a first step, older methods such as the "gene gun" (biolistic method) or gene transfer via Agrobacterium tumefaciens are commonly used. However, USDA completely ignores these differences to conventional breeding.

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