News

07.11.2019 |

Environment MEPs oppose plans to authorise four herbicide-resistant GMOs

The Environment Committee today opposed the Commission’s plans to authorise the import of products containing four glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium resistant GMOs, in a vote on Wednesday.

The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee of the European Parliament today opposed the European Commission’s plans to authorise the import of products containing four herbicide-resistant GMOs and calls on the Commission to withdraw its draft implementing decisions on these products. This follows the decision of Plenary 10 October 2019 to oppose three other herbicide-resistant GMOs.

The authorisations cover the import of products containing or consisting of GMOs cotton LLCotton25[1], soybean MON 89788[2], maize MON 89034 including sub-combinations[3] and maize Bt11 × MIR162 × MIR604 × 1507 × 5307 × GA21 including sub-combinations[4].

These GMOs have been made tolerant to glyphosate-based and glufosinate ammonium-based herbicides. MEPs say that a number of studies show that such GM crops result in a higher use of weed killers. The crop may be exposed to repeated doses, which potentially lead to higher quantity of residues in the harvest, they say.

05.11.2019 |

Regulatory detection of new GMOs: Finally under way

European experts on GMO detection are getting to work on establishing detection methods for new GMOs, reports Eric Meunier of Inf'OGM

Since February 2019, European experts on GMO detection and traceability have been updating their work. Whether it is GMOs obtained by new techniques of genetic modification, genetically modified animals or micro-organisms, all are on the agenda for the coming months. This is essential work that has nevertheless been slow in coming, in particular due to opposition from the European Commission in 2017.

18.10.2019 |

The EU dilemma with the GMO industry and independent risk research

The EU should give higher priority to the protection of health and the environment, but when it comes to genetically engineered plants, the current standards of risk assessment are not sufficient to fulfil the legal requirements, writes Christoph Then, executive director at Testbiotech.

(.....)

Currently, more than 70 genetically engineered plants have approval for import into the EU. Most of these plants have more than one trait. One typical example is maize “SmartStax“, developed and marketed by Monsanto (Bayer) and DowDupont (Corteva): it produces six insecticidal Bt toxins and is tolerant to several herbicides.

The gaps in current risk assessment can be exemplified by the fact that this maize was allowed for import into the EU without a single feeding study with the whole food and feed to assess its potential health effects.

There is a long list of gaps in EFSA risk assessment.

16.10.2019 |

GMOs, synthetic biology have cultural, environmental impacts in Africa

African countries’ representatives of scientists, civil society and legal practitioners have said that technologies, such as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), synthetic biology and geo-engineering have cultural, sanitary, environmental, economic and social impacts in Africa. The experts, who spoke at an event at the School of Ecology organized by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation and ETC Group in Abuja on ‘New and Emerging Technologies and their Implications for Africa’,also said they can bring about the disruption of livelihoods on a massive scale.

16.10.2019 |

Gene Editing Mishaps Highlight Need for FDA Oversight

A Midwestern company’s quest to genetically engineer the world’s first hornless dairy cows hit a snag this summer when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found extra genes in the cows that weren’t supposed to be there. The mistakes that FDA caught – but the company missed – highlight the importance of government oversight of gene-edited foods at a time when industry groups are pushing for deregulation.

(.....)

Latham, a biologist and former genetic engineer, also points to recent findings from Japan that he believes may be more consequential than the FDA’s findings, and have greater implications for the regulatory landscape. In a 2019 study, Japanese researchers reported that edited mouse genomes had acquired DNA from the E. coli genome, as well as goat and bovine DNA. This stray DNA came from the gene editing reagents, the delivery method used to make the edits.

The findings, Latham wrote in Independent Science News, “are very simple: cutting DNA inside cells, regardless of the precise type of gene editing, predisposes genomes to acquire unwanted DNA.” He said these findings “imply, at the very least, the need for strong measures to prevent contamination by stray DNA, along with thorough scrutiny of gene-edited cells and gene-edited organisms. And, as the Recombinetics case suggests, these are needs that developers themselves may not meet.”

15.10.2019 |

Let them eat GM cottonseed!

Potentially dangerous new GMO gains US FDA approval to be fed to humans and animals – poor and hungry targeted. Report: Claire Robinson

US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulators have approved a new type of GM cotton, the seed of which is to be used for human and animal consumption. The cotton, developed by researchers at Texas A&M University, is being touted as a protein-rich way to feed the poor and hungry. However, the many risks of this GM food are being ignored.

The GM cotton is engineered to have lower than normal levels of a substance called gossypol in the seed, but normal levels in other parts of the plant. Gossypol is useful to the plant for resisting pests and diseases, but it is toxic for humans and animals (though less so to mature ruminants such as cows) to eat.

09.10.2019 |

United States - The precautionary principle to deal with GM animals?

In the United States, draft guidelines, put on the table by the Food and Drugs Agency (FDA), plans to regulate any animal whose genome has been modified. The approach chosen embraces almost all modern biotechnologies of genetic modification, beyond the only techniques inserting exogenous DNA. A draft discontenting the pro-GMOs. The application that may be required to obtain a commercial authorization partly meets the dreams of the european opponents to GMOs …

08.10.2019 |

Crunch Time for the Seed Treaty

A review of some outstanding issues in the negotiation

Will the effort to fix ITPGRFA’s broken benefit sharing system measure up to expectations?

This paper reviews the key outstanding issues that are expected to be discussed by the ITPGRFA Governing Body, and makes recommendations for what developing countries, farmers, and other civil society should support in November’s decisive negotiation.

Next month, the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) will hold what may prove to be its most consequential meeting since the Treaty’s inception. On the table will be:

- A draft agreement to revise the Treaty’s Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA), which governs international exchanges of crop seeds, and

- A proposal to expand the coverage of the Treaty’s Multilateral System (MLS) to “all PGRFA” (Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture).

The purpose of the negotiation is supposed to be increasing mandatory payments by the seed industry into the Treaty’s Benefit Sharing Fund – money that supports the in situ conservation of agricultural biodiversity in farmers’ fields. But developed countries are trying to move the goal post.

04.10.2019 |

Highlight negative results to improve science

Publishers, reviewers and other members of the scientific community must fight science’s preference for positive results — for the benefit of all, says Devang Mehta.

Near the end of April, my colleagues and I published an unusual scientific paper — one reporting a failed experiment — in Genome Biology. Publishing my work in a well-regarded peer-reviewed journal should’ve been a joyous, celebratory event for a newly minted PhD holder like me. Instead, trying to navigate through three other journals and countless revisions before finding it a home at Genome Biology has revealed to me one of the worst aspects of science today: its toxic definitions of ‘success’.

Our work started as an attempt to use the much-hyped CRISPR gene-editing tool to make cassava (Manihot esculenta) resistant to an incredibly damaging viral disease, cassava mosaic disease. (Cassava is a tropical root crop that is a staple food for almost one billion people.) However, despite previous reports that CRISPR could provide viral immunity to plants by disrupting viral DNA, our experiments consistently showed the opposite result.

In fact, our paper also showed that using CRISPR as an ‘immune system’ in plants probably led to the evolution of viruses that were more resistant to CRISPR. And although this result was scientifically interesting, it wasn’t the ‘positive’ result that applied scientists like me are taught to value. I had set off on my PhD trying to engineer plants to be resistant to viral diseases, and instead, four years later, I had good news for only the virus.

04.10.2019 |

No ‘magical’ alternative to glyphosate in the next 5 years, Bayer official says

In the next five years, no alternative to glyphosate is going to “magically” appear in the market, Dr Bob Reiter, a high-ranking official from Bayer, told EURACTIV.com, referring to the controversial herbicide that has been the subject of heated debates across Europe.

Speaking to EURACTIV on the sidelines of the Future of Farming Dialogue event in Monheim, Dr Reiter, who is the head of research and development, crop science at Bayer, said glyphosate might be a “once in a lifetime product”.

(.....)

Gene editing and EU framework

EURACTIV also discussed with Dr Reiter the issue of plant breeding innovation and the EU framework to regulate it, following an EU Court decision that complicated things.

In July 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that organisms obtained by mutagenesis plant breeding technique are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and should, in principle, fall under the GMO Directive.

(.....)

For Dr Reiter, the legislation that regulates genetically modified products could be reopened. “And in that, maybe one can see legislation that sort of makes, it has a different path for gene editing […] and there are pros and cons to that, honestly.”

Regarding a new regulatory framework, he said we have to be careful.

“Gene editing, in theory, can do very simple things that look just like nature. It can also be complex engineering that looks like a GMO. So given that breadth, I think it’s going to be a little bit tricky just to set aside and create new legislation that’s unique for gene editing,” he said.

EnglishFranceDeutsch