News

2018-12-07 |

Gene drive symposium

Interdisciplinary symposium on gene drives with a focus on their scientific, ethical, socio-economic and regulatory aspects

FRIDAY 24 MAY 2019
9:00―17:00 Eventforum Bern Fabrikstrasse 12
3012 Bern, Switzerland

The idea of circumventing the rules of inheritance in order to quickly spread and maintain desired traits through an entire population or species, has long existed. With new genetic engineering techniques for genome editing, such as CRISPR-Cas9, it may soon be possible to turn this idea into reality. It has been claimed that gene drive technology may be used to combat infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue or zika, as well as to reduce the threat posed by agricultural pests and ecologically harmful invasive species. However, a crucial difference with conventional gene technology is that gene drives intentionally target wild populations in order to permanently alter them.

Gene drives are a technology that raises fundamental ecological, social, ethical, and legal questions:
* Which path do we want to take as a society?
* Is it a good idea to seek to irreversibly alter ecosystems in the age of mass extinctions?
* Are there dispensable species?
* Are the promised goals achievable?
* Who gets to decide?
* What environmental implications could we face if we were to eliminate populations or species using gene drives?
* What are the consequences of making such attempts if they are unsuccessful?
* Who is responsible when things go wrong with a technology that potentially crosses borders?
* Are the appropriate regulations in place?

A working group of international scientists and philosophers has extensively considered these questions. The outcome of this process will be presented for discussion at the Gene Drive Symposium.

SPEAKERS
Lim Li Ching, Third World Network
Christopher Preston, University of Montana
Ricarda Steinbrecher, Federation of German Scientists (VDW)
Helen Wallace, GeneWatch UK

PANEL DISCUSSION
Kevin Esvelt, MIT Media Lab
Ignacio Chapela, University of California, Berkeley

PANEL MODERATION
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Honorary president, Club of Rome

More information at: https://genedrives.ch

European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility

2018-12-07 |

Mark Lynas slammed for exploiting African farmers’ images to promote GMOs

African farmers are demanding that Lynas cease using their images in his GMO promotionals; Lynas’s mischief-making may have triggered Tanzania’s ending of GMO field trials. Report: Claire Robinson, GMWatch and Mariam Mayet, African Centre for Biodiversity

The British pro-GMO activist Mark Lynas has angered African farmers over his mis-use of their images on the internet to promote his pro-GMO agenda. The farmers have demanded that Lynas remove their images and names from all online platforms.

These developments are documented in a new report by Dr Eugenio Tisselli, an IT specialist, and his co-author, biosafety scientist and agroecologist, Dr Angelika Hilbeck of ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Since 2011, Drs Tisselli and Hilbeck have coordinated a project, “Sauti ya wakulima” (“The voice of the farmers”), aimed at supporting Tanzanian farmers create a collaborative network of shared knowledge.

Drs Tisselli and Hilbeck felt compelled to speak out when they discovered that some Tanzanian farmers, whom they know personally, were used in Lynas’s public relations campaign to promote GM crops in Tanzania. Drs Tisselli and Hilbeck emphasized that the farmers know nothing of the GMO “debate” or Lynas’s role in it. They are only concerned that their voices were used without their knowledge or consent in a context they do not understand and do not want to be a part of.

2018-12-04 |

Tanzania Ban Genetically Modified Crop Trials

On November 21st, 2018, the Ministry of Agricultural of Tanzania has instructed the Tanzania Institute for Agricultural Research (TARI) to terminate Genetic Modified Organism-GMOs at its research centers.

In addition, it has ordered TARI to destroy with all remainders of the experiments on GMOs.

The action was taken after the Institute began to disseminate the results of its researches on GMOs without obtaining government approval.

Tanzania has been carrying out GM seeds confined field trials for maize in Makutopora in Dodoma Region and for cassava at the Mikocheni Agriculture Research Institute in Dar es Salaam.

2018-12-03 |

Non-GMO starch Market : Rising Demand For Non-GMO Ingredients in a Food Item to Bolster Industry Growth

Starch is a carbohydrate that is abundantly used in the food and beverage industry, owing to its wide range of applications and functions. Starch is usually extracted from natural sources such as wheat, cassava, potato, rice, sago and corn. Non-GMO starch was first coined under the non-GMO project, where starch was prepared from non-genetically modified plants. Non-GMO starch is manufactured under strict regulated environment and protocols in order to prevent contamination and preserve the identity of the crop. Farmers are also required to use only non-GMO seeds for the crop production. These non-GMO crops are usually grown in countries where the growing of genetically modified organism is prohibited.

Opportunities for Non-GMO Starch Market Participants

The non-GMO starch available in the market are also very expensive, hence companies associated with non-GMO starch production need to find ways to offer the cost-effective solution to its customers. In today’s world, consumer buying behavior has continuously being influenced by the internet, buyers spend more time searching required products from various manufacturers before arriving at a decision. All companies have an online presence, but today, consumers are looking for an interactive web experience. Hence companies operating in this market needs to improve its web experience for the consumers and increase transparency of products accordingly. The role of retail and online support is no longer limited to the sale, and customer satisfaction after the sale is of paramount importance. Moreover, there is an increase in demand for non-GMO starch flour by the consumers of Europe, so new entrants could focus on offering such innovative products in order to enhance its foothold in the region as well as globally.

2018-11-29 |

United Nations Hits the Brakes on Gene Drives

Landmark Convention on Biological Diversity decision calls on governments to conduct strict risk assessments and seek indigenous and local peoples’ consent ahead of potential release of ‘exterminator’ technology.

29 November 2018, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt: Today, the UN has made a significant global decision on how to govern a high-risk, new genetic engineering technology – gene drives.

‘This important decision puts controls on gene drives using simple common sense principles: Don’t mess with someone else’s environment, territories and rights without their consent,’ explains Jim Thomas, Co-Executive Director of the ETC Group. ‘Gene drives are currently being pursued by powerful military and agribusiness interests and a few wealthy individuals. This UN decision puts the power back in the hands of local communities, in particular Indigenous Peoples, to step on the brakes on this exterminator technology’.

The Convention on Biological Diversity decision also requires that, before an environmental gene drive release, a thorough risk assessment is carried out. With most countries lacking a regulatory system for the technology, it requires that new safety measures are put in place to prevent potential adverse effects. The decision acknowledges that more studies and research on impacts of gene drives are needed to develop guidelines to assess gene drive organisms before they are considered for release.

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