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25.07.2018 |

ECJ ruling on gene editing products: Victory for consumers, farmers, environment

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) today published its ruling on the legal status of food and feed crops derived from certain new genetic modification techniques. It gave clear confirmation that organisms from these new gene editing techniques are covered by existing EU GMO regulation.

Reacting to the decision, which corroborates the January 2018 opinion of one of the court’s Advocates General, Corporate Europe Observatory’s agribusiness campaigner Nina Holland said:

“This is a big victory for the environment, farmers and consumers. It clarifies that EU decision makers have to ensure that products from these new techniques are assessed for potential food safety and environmental risks, and that they are properly labelled as GMOs.

“Big agribusiness corporations will continue their lobbying in Brussels to escape EU safety rules for the new GMOs, but today's ruling leaves no doubt: Products from gene editing are covered by the existing EU GMO rules.

"This ruling also means that the secret, unregulated field trial currently run in Belgium is illegal. The CRISPR-technique does in no way have a "history of safe use", and the plants used in this trial are undoubtedly GMOs. Belgian authorities should act accordingly and halt this trial."

25.07.2018 |

The judges of the EU Court of Justice
Court of Justice of the European Union

EU Court of Justice: CRISPR is genetic engineering

The European Court of Justice today has issued a long awaited verdict on the question how to interpret the exemption of certain forms of mutagenisis from the EU regulation on genetically modified organisms. Acoording to its press release today, the Court clearly states: All mutagenesis is genetic modfication. Therefore, some traditional forms of random mutagenesis (by radiation and chemical treatment) had been explicitely exempted from the regulation. This exemption, the court decided, does not apply to new forms of direct mutagenesis by new technologies of genetic engineering such as CRISPR-Cas.

25.07.2018 |

GMO Kids? Argentina Moms Confront Monsanto and Philip Morris Over Greed and Pesticides

Seventeen-year-old William Nuñez can’t walk or talk, and has to be fed through a tube in his stomach. Five-year-old Lucas Texeira suffers from a severe and incurable skin condition. Lucas Krauss has congenital microcephaly, epilepsy, delayed motor and mental development, multiple muscular atrophy and numerous related pathologies.

What do these children have in common? Their fathers, all farmers working in Latin America, were exposed to agricultural pesticides that likely damaged their DNA, increasing the risk of cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders in the children they later fathered.

They also have this in common: Their mothers are fighting for justice for their kids.

“Genetically Modified Children,” a new one-hour documentary, exposes how Philip Morris and Monsanto have exploited generations of impoverished Argentinian farmers since 1996, when the Argentinian government authorized the use of genetically engineered crops to withstand the use of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

24.07.2018 |

Unauthorised GMO field trial exposed as EU takes hands-off approach, Greenpeace

EU court set to rule on whether new GMOs fall under existing law

Press release

Brussels – Media reports in Belgium have exposed an unauthorised field trial of an experimental genetically modified maize in Flanders, preempting a ruling on the classification of a new brand of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by the European Court of Justice on Wednesday.

The reports were published in De Morgen and La Libre.

Authorities in Belgium took a similar approach to the UK, Finland and Sweden in advising that certain plants created with a genetic engineering technique known as CRISPR do not fall under EU GMO law.

The European Court of Justice will rule whether or not GMOs produced through so-called gene editing techniques, such as CRISPR, are covered by EU GMO law or fall under an exemption reserved for so-called “mutagenesis” techniques (case C-528/16).

20.07.2018 |

Do we really need next-gen genetically modified foods to feed the world?

Companies are on the verge of selling lab-grown meat. The new products are touted as environmentally friendly, but is it what consumers want and where exactly are the lines when it comes to genetic engineering?

When a strawberry from Chile and a strawberry from the United States met in a genteel French garden 200 years ago — on a blind date arranged by gardeners who wanted to create a better berry — it was love at first sight.

Previously, imported species from the US state of Virginia hadn't produced much, while the fruits of European varieties were very small. As it turned out, the Chilean genes held the magic ingredient, and nearly every strawberry you buy in the market today comes from that strain.

Luscious strawberries may be among the the tastiest results of genetic tinkering, but they are not the only. Mesopotamians started propagating wild grasses with the biggest seeds 10,000 years ago, which eventually turned them into the crops we now call rice, wheat, barley, oats, millet and rye.

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.

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