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18.07.2018 |

New methods of genetic engineering and the 'poisonous CRISPR mushroom'

Testbiotech to release a video clip showing a possible future scenario

18 July 2018 / Today Testbiotech is releasing a video clip about the first mushroom to be created through having its genome manipulated by CRISPR-Cas. It is worldwide the first CRISPR organism to be approved for use in food production: US authorities gave their go-ahead in 2016. Because no additional genes were inserted, the regulatory authorities did not request a detailed risk assessment. As yet, the mushroom is not available on the market.

The video clip aims to highlight an ongoing highly dynamic process in the field of genetic engineering. New tools such as the 'DNA scissor' (nuclease) CRISPR-Cas have become cheaper and more efficient than previous methods. This means that many more plants and animals can be genetically engineered within shorter periods of times than has been the case until now. The technical potential of genome editing goes far beyond what has ever been achieved with previous methods of genetic engineering: radical changes in the genome and the usage of synthetic DNA with no natural template has become reality. Some of these genetic changes are said to be to be very small and precise. The video clip is about such 'small' and targeted genomic changes where no additional DNA sequences are inserted.

18.07.2018 |

Monsanto Trial: Toxicologist Explains to Jury How Monsanto Colluded With EPA

Thanks to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for providing a recap of the fourth and fifth day in court in the Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co. trial. Proceedings began in San Francisco Superior Court on July 9. The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma four years ago, claims Monsanto hid evidence that the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, caused his cancer. This is the first case to go to trial among hundreds of lawsuits alleging Roundup caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The trial is expected to last about a month. (Read recap of day six).

Throughout Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, July 16 and July 17, Monsanto’s attorney, Kirby Griffiths, continued his ambuscade of Plaintiff’s epidemiologist/toxicologist, Dr. Christopher Portier, probing for weaknesses in Portier’s assessment that glyphosate and Roundup are human carcinogens. Dr. Portier yielded nothing; the studies evaluating glyphosate’s carcinogenicity were performed correctly, he said, properly examined and interpreted accurately by the International Agency for Cancer Research, which determined that “glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.” Watching Griffiths try to get a grapple hold on Dr. Portier had the aspect of a man trying to climb a greased pole. Griffiths never got his feet off the ground.

18.07.2018 |

New Study Finds Unintended Consequences of CRISPR Gene Editing

Scientists and biotechnologists have heralded the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system as revolutionary way to edit DNA, like scissors and a glue stick for the genome. But a new study found some potentially harmful unintended effects.

This isn’t the first time a paper has found flaws in CRISPR’s abilities, though one previous paper on the matter has been retracted. But many feel this new research is worth taking seriously, and that CRISPR might cause large, unexpected deletions to a cell’s genome.

“We speculate that current assessments may have missed a substantial proportion of potential genotypes generated by on-target Cas9 cutting and repair, some of which may have potential pathogenic consequences following somatic editing of large populations of mitotically active cells,” the authors of the study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom write in the paper published this week in Nature Biotechnology. Basically, past research may have missed lots of CRISPR’s potentially harmful consequences.

18.07.2018 |

International Symposium: Report from South Korea Meeting About Labelling of GM Food

The demand for better labelling of genetically modified food is rising in South Korea. With citizens taking the lead, over 200,000 people signed a petition in March, 2018 and was officially submitted to the government, but no response has yet been coming forward.

On July 19, 2018 an international symposium will be held in Seoul with invited specialists from Japan and the United States, to discuss the current status of GM food labelling. The hosts are different South Korean civil society organizations. Consumers Union of Japan and Seikatsu Club will be representing Japan.

17.07.2018 |

CRISPR causes greater genetic damage than previously thought

Caution required for using CRISPR in potential gene therapies – and food plants

Scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute have discovered that CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing can cause greater genetic damage in cells than was previously thought. These results create safety implications for gene therapies using CRISPR/Cas9 in the future as the unexpected damage could lead to dangerous changes in some cells. Potential consequences could include triggering cancer.

Reported on 16 July 2018 in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the study also revealed that standard tests for detecting DNA changes miss finding this genetic damage, and that caution and specific testing will be required for any potential gene therapies.

As usual we see far more honesty about the off-target effects of CRISPR from genetic engineers in the field of medical research than we see from the plant genetic engineers. However, the technique as used in plants is the same, as are the mechanisms of DNA repair. These off-target effects in food plants could have possible knock-on effects on food safety, including unexpected toxicity and allergenicity.

16.07.2018 |

Potential CRISPR damage has been 'seriously underestimated,' study finds

From the earliest days of the CRISPR-Cas9 era, scientists have known that the first step in how it edits genomes — snipping DNA — creates an unholy mess: Cellular repairmen frantically try to fix the cuts by throwing random chunks of DNA into the breach and deleting other random bits. Research published on Monday suggests that’s only the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg: CRISPR-Cas9 can cause significantly greater genetic havoc than experts thought, the study concludes, perhaps enough to threaten the health of patients who would one day receive CRISPR-based therapy.

The results come hard on the heels of two studies that identified a related issue: Some CRISPR’d cells might be missing a key anti-cancer mechanism and therefore be able to initiate tumors.

The DNA damage found in the new study included deletions of thousands of DNA bases, including at spots far from the edit. Some of the deletions can silence genes that should be active and activate genes that should be silent, including cancer-causing genes.

10.07.2018 |

Genetically modified organisms: Restriction proposal for Cabinet

Denis Naughten recommends opting out of directive on GMOs

A proposal “to restrict or prohibit” cultivation of crops containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is to be put to the Cabinet on Tuesday by Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten.

Mr Naughten has recommended opting out of an EU directive on GMOs on the basis that it is critically important Ireland takes “whatever steps are necessary” to maintain our GMO cultivation-free status. He said that status is “a key element of our international reputation as a green, sustainable food producer”.

The transposition of Directive 2015/412 enables Ireland to opt out of cultivation of GMO crops, approved for cultivation elsewhere in the EU on a much wider range of policy grounds than had previously been the case.

10.07.2018 |

Government approves wider restrictions on the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Ireland

The Cabinet has agreed to enable Ireland to prohibit or restrict the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Ireland.

The Government approved the transposition of an EU Directive, which will enable Ireland to opt out of cultivation of GMO crops approved for cultivation elsewhere in the EU.

This will happen on a much wider range of policy grounds than had previously been the case.

These grounds include where such cultivation would be contrary to environmental policy objectives, town and country planning, land use, socio-economic impacts, avoidance of GMO presence in other products, agricultural policy objectives and public policy.

09.07.2018 |

Rats fed GM stacked-trait maize developed leaky stomachs

Rats fed a triple-stacked trait GM maize engineered for insect resistance and herbicide tolerance developed leaky stomachs, according to a new peer-reviewed paper by Australian researchers.

In the experiment conducted by Irena M. Zdziarski of the University of Adelaide, Judy A. Carman of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER), and John W. Edwards of Flinders University, the rats were split into two groups of 10 males each.

One group was fed on the GM stacked-trait maize, containing Monsanto Bt insecticidal toxin traits MON863 and MON810, and glyphosate-tolerant trait NK603, for six months. That's twice as long as the typical rat feeding study performed by industry for regulatory authorisations. The GM maize was grown in the US.

The other group of rats was fed for the same amount of time on the control diet, which contained a commercially-grown non-GM maize grown in Australia. The control maize was not sourced from the US due to the difficulty of finding a non-GM corn variety from that country that would be uncontaminated with GM genes.

07.07.2018 |

Tell Deutsche Bahn it's the end of the line for glyphosate!

It might come as a surprise that a train company is Germany's biggest glyphosate user. Every year, the national railway Deutsche Bahn sprays over 65 thousand kilograms of toxic pesticide on its tracks -- endangering ecosystems throughout the whole country.

Austria’s national railway company has pledged to completely end its use of glyphosate within five years -- there's no reason why Deutsche Bahn can't do the same.

The German government is currently looking for ways to reduce glyphosate use. This is the perfect time to put public pressure on the 100 percent state-owned railway corporation to phase out the dangerous pesticide.

Deutsche Bahn's railway network spans 33,500 kilometers -- that's 33,500 kilometers soaked with glyphosate, spreading its poisonous traces through all of Germany.

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