News

2019-01-03 |

The Rise and Fall of Gene-as-God: It’s the End of the Gene As We Know It

We are not nearly as determined by our genes as once thought.

We’ve all seen the stark headlines: “Being Rich and Successful Is in Your DNA” (Guardian, July 12); “A New Genetic Test Could Help Determine Children’s Success” (Newsweek, July 10); “Our Fortunetelling Genes” make us (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 16); and so on.

The problem is, many of these headlines are not discussing real genes at all, but a crude statistical model of them, involving dozens of unlikely assumptions. Now, slowly but surely, that whole conceptual model of the gene is being challenged.

We have reached peak gene, and passed it.
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In a paper in Physics of Life Reviews in 2013, James Shapiro describes how cells and organisms are capable of “natural genetic engineering.” That is, they frequently alter their own DNA sequences, rewriting their own genomes throughout life. The startling implication is that the gene as popularly conceived—a blueprint on a strand of DNA, determining development and its variations—does not really exist.

So it is, in a review in the journal Genetics in 2017, that the geneticists Petter Portin and Adam Wilkins question “the utility of the concept of a basic ‘unit of inheritance’ and the long implicit belief that genes are autonomous agents.” They show that “the classic molecular definition [is] obsolete.”

These radical revisions of the gene concept need to reach the general public soon—before past social policy mistakes are repeated.

2019-01-02 |

Experts agree: New GMOs can be detected

Dr Yves Bertheau and other experts rebut claims that genome-edited products cannot be distinguished from natural products and thus cannot be detected or regulated

GMO proponents lobbying for lax regulation of GM plants and animals produced with "new GM" techniques, including genome editing, argue that living organisms naturally contain many mutations (DNA damage), making them "natural GMOs". They add that it is often impossible to distinguish mutations induced by the new GM techniques from naturally induced mutations and that therefore GMOs produced with these techniques should not be regulated more strictly than conventionally bred varieties. Furthermore, they argue that GMOs produced with these techniques often cannot be distinguished from naturally bred organisms. They conclude that these GMOs cannot be identified or traced – and because traceability is not possible, it is simply not practical to regulate or label them.

2019-01-02 |

GM Cotton – Reckless Gamble

The Profit Driven Move that Placed Indian Cotton Farmers in Corporate Noose

The dubious performance (failure) of genetically engineered Bt cotton, officially India’s only GM crop, should serve as a warning as the push within the country to adopt GM across a wide range of food crops continues. This article provides an outline of some key reports and papers that have appeared in the last few years on Bt cotton in India.

In a paper that appeared in December 2018 in the journal Current Science, P.C. Kesavan and M.S. Swaminathan cited research findings to support the view that Bt insecticidal cotton has been a failure in India and has not provided livelihood security for mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers. This paper was not just important because of its content but also because M.S. Swaminathan is considered to be the father of the Green Revolution in India.

The two authors provided evidence that indicates Bt crops are unsustainable and have not decreased the need for toxic chemical pesticides, the reason for these GM crops in the first place.

2018-12-31 |

India’s Swaminathan Criticises GM Crops as Highly Unsustainable

M.S. Swaminathan is known as the "Father of the Green Revolution in India". Although the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation has promoted GM crops since the early 2000s, in a newly published peer-reviewed paper he co-authored with P.C. Kesavan, Swaminathan criticises GM crops as unsustainable and questions their safety and regulation.

The authors state that none of the new agricultural technologies, including the Green Revolution, has been truly sustainable largely because of their adverse environmental and social impacts. They conclude that Bt and herbicide-tolerant crops are highly unsustainable. The authors state that Bt cotton has failed in India as a sustainable agriculture technology, failing to provide livelihood security for poor cotton farmers.

The authors draw attention to the "rising health concerns associated with Bt-crops", as well as evidence pointing to the conclusion that "Bt toxins are toxic to all the organisms, including mammals". They state that the Indian government was right to place a moratorium on Bt brinjal (eggplant) and call for a ban on Bt crops (except Bt cotton) in the country.

The paper is highly critical of India's GMO regulators for endemic conflicts of interest, lack of expertise in GMO risk assessment protocols, including food safety assessment, the assessment of their environmental impacts, the lack of ‘need’ for expensive transgenic technology, and the lack of a socio-economic assessment of their farming impacts on small farmers.

2018-12-27 |

Nigeria no longer dumping ground for modified products

Federal Government has disclosed that the dumping of unauthorised Genetically Modified Organisms, GMO, in Nigeria has been reduced to the barest minimum.

Speaking in Abuja, during the presentation of the scorecard of National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, Director General of the agency, Mr. Rufus Ebegba, said efforts have been heightened to safeguard the country against harmful GM products. He further stated that risks to human health from modern biotechnology practice and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are at their barest minimum.

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