GMO news related to Germany

23.07.2020 |

Evidence of new genetic engineering: Federal government very late

The German Ministry of Agriculture has launched a study on the feasibility of detection methods for "new" genetic engineering (NGT) - two years after the European Court of Justice clarified that the same rules apply as for "old" genetic engineering. Results should not be available until 2022. Even then, there will be no detection method for the only relevant NGT plant so far.

02.07.2020 |

No patents on genetically engineered chimpanzees!

Huge success for animal welfare coalition and environmental organisations

Thursday, 2 July 2020

The European Patent Office (EPO) has for ethical reasons now declared two patents on genetically engineered chimpanzees to be no longer valid. All claims on genetically engineered animals have to be removed from the patents concerned. The Technical Board of Appeal at the EPO decided in favour of oppositions and appeals filed by a broad coalition of animal welfare and environmental organisations. European patent law prohibits patents on the genetic engineering of animals if it is likely to cause animal suffering. Exceptions are only made if there is real evidence of substantial medical benefit. According to the EPO, no such benefit was shown. It is the first time that the EPO has interpreted this rule so strictly. The decision is also binding for other cases.

02.07.2020 |

Petition | STOP GENE DRIVES

Petition for a ban on the release of gene drive organisms

Gene drive organisms are perhaps one of the most dangerous environmental applications of genetic engineering ever developed: Enabled by new genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9, the genetic make-up of living organisms can be fundamentally altered and the natural rules of heredity can be overridden. In this way, wild species can be genetically modified, replaced or even eradicated. Once released into nature, gene drive organisms would be irretrievable. Any field trial would potentially be highly risky. In the worst case scenario the release of gene drive organisms into nature could accelerate the extinction of species and lead to the collapse of entire ecosystems. We call on the German Federal Government, to use its EU Council Presidency in the second half of 2020, to bring about a Europe-wide ban on the release of gene drive organisms and to make good use of its role as the chief negotiator for the EU at the next Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2020 to prevent the first releases of gene drive organisms into nature.

Sign the petition!

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.

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.

27.05.2020 |

Gene Drives Webinar

The authors of the interdisciplinary Gene Drive Report (2019) are holding webinars on social, technological & scientific, environmental, ethical and legal questions of this new technique in June 2020 via Zoom – for free.

02 June 2020 15:00 – 16:30

«What are gene drives? How do they work?» by Ricarda Steinbrecher

04 June 2020 15:00 – 16:30

«Gene drives: What problems are they intended to solve and what are the risks?» by Mark Wells

10 June 2020 15:00 – 16:30

«Gene drives in a social context: promises, precaution & public engagement» by Tamara Lebrecht

12 June 2020 16:00 – 17:30 [sic!]

«Ethical Questions about Gene Drives» by Christopher Preston

16 June 2020 15:00 – 16:30

«Are governments keeping an eye on gene drives?» by Lim Li Ching

14.05.2020 |

European Patent Office gives green light to prohibit patents on plants and animals

Enlarged Board of Appeal agrees with restrictive interpretation of patent law

14 May 2020 / Patents on plants and animals derived from conventional breeding can be fully prohibited in Europe. This is the result of a verdict published today by the Enlarged Board of Appeal, the highest legal body of the European Patent Office (EPO). The Board concluded that plants and animals obtained by ‘essentially biological processes’ are not patentable, with the exception of patent applications filed before July 2017. This verdict is in line with the interpretation of European patent law as decided by the 38 member states of the EPO in 2017. No Patents on Seeds! welcomes the verdict but is also demanding further political decisions to close still existing loopholes. Access to biological diversity needed for further breeding must not be controlled, hampered or blocked by any patents.

“For more than ten years we have been fighting against patents such as those on broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, melons and cereals. Therefore, we welcome this verdict in the name of the European public, gardeners, farmers and consumers. Knowledge of methods of breeding plants and animals continues to evolve as a common good from the activities of farmers and breeders over centuries, it is not invented by industry. In future, conventionally bred plants and animals have to be kept available for further breeding,” Martha Mertens says for Friends of the Earth Germany.

06.05.2020 |

Spatio-temporal controllability and environmental risk assessment of genetically engineered gene drive organisms from the perspective of EU GMO Regulation

ABSTRACT

Gene drive organisms are a recent development created by using methods of genetic engineering; they inherit genetic constructs that are passed on to future generations with a higher probability than with Mendelian inheritance. There are some specific challenges inherent to the environmental risk assessment (ERA) of genetically engineered (GE) gene drive organisms, since subsequent generations of these GE organisms might show effects that were not observed or intended in the former generations. Unintended effects can emerge from interaction of the gene drive construct with the heterogeneous genetic background of natural populations and/or be triggered by changing environmental conditions. This is especially relevant in case of gene drives with invasive characteristics and typically takes dozens of generations to render the desired effect. Under these circumstances, ‘next generation effects’ can substantially increase the spatial and temporal complexity associated with a high level of uncertainty in ERA.

27.04.2020 |

GeneTip project results published in full

New publication on technology assessment of gene drives

27 April 2020 / The GeneTip research project was a joint enterprise carried out from 2017 until 2019 by the Universities of Bremen and Vechta, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and Testbiotech, Munich. The researchers focused on risks associated with the spread of newly designed genetically engineered organisms into the environment. In particular, the project examined plants and animals with a so-called gene drive. The results have now been published in full by the Springer Publishing Company in a book titled “Gene Drives at Tipping Points“ (open access).

The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and coordinated by the University of Bremen (project code 01LC1724). The published results give a detailed overview of the technical characteristics of gene drives as well as associated risks.

Gene drives are designed to spread genetically engineered organisms rapidly through natural populations. In populations with sexual reproduction, genetic characteristics are normally distributed with a 50% probability to the offspring. The gene drive mechanism, however, interferes with process of natural inheritance, aiming to pass on new genetic information to almost 100% of following generations. There are ongoing debates about using gene drives to combat insects such as mosquitoes and fruit flies, or rodents such as mice and rats. The aim is to suppress or eradicate the target species within a region, or to replace it with genetically engineered populations.

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