News

14.05.2020 |

European Patent Office gives green light to prohibit patents on plants and animals

Enlarged Board of Appeal agrees with restrictive interpretation of patent law

14 May 2020 / Patents on plants and animals derived from conventional breeding can be fully prohibited in Europe. This is the result of a verdict published today by the Enlarged Board of Appeal, the highest legal body of the European Patent Office (EPO). The Board concluded that plants and animals obtained by ‘essentially biological processes’ are not patentable, with the exception of patent applications filed before July 2017. This verdict is in line with the interpretation of European patent law as decided by the 38 member states of the EPO in 2017. No Patents on Seeds! welcomes the verdict but is also demanding further political decisions to close still existing loopholes. Access to biological diversity needed for further breeding must not be controlled, hampered or blocked by any patents.

“For more than ten years we have been fighting against patents such as those on broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, melons and cereals. Therefore, we welcome this verdict in the name of the European public, gardeners, farmers and consumers. Knowledge of methods of breeding plants and animals continues to evolve as a common good from the activities of farmers and breeders over centuries, it is not invented by industry. In future, conventionally bred plants and animals have to be kept available for further breeding,” Martha Mertens says for Friends of the Earth Germany.

07.05.2020 |

The EU not ready for the release of Gene drive organisms into the environment

Summary:

Gene drive organisms (GDOs) have been suggested as an approach to solve some of the most pressing environmental and public health issues. Currently, it remains unclear what kind of regulations are to be used to cover the potential risks. Scientists have evaluated the options for an operational risk assessment of GDOs before their release into environments across the EU.

06.05.2020 |

Spatio-temporal controllability and environmental risk assessment of genetically engineered gene drive organisms from the perspective of EU GMO Regulation

ABSTRACT

Gene drive organisms are a recent development created by using methods of genetic engineering; they inherit genetic constructs that are passed on to future generations with a higher probability than with Mendelian inheritance. There are some specific challenges inherent to the environmental risk assessment (ERA) of genetically engineered (GE) gene drive organisms, since subsequent generations of these GE organisms might show effects that were not observed or intended in the former generations. Unintended effects can emerge from interaction of the gene drive construct with the heterogeneous genetic background of natural populations and/or be triggered by changing environmental conditions. This is especially relevant in case of gene drives with invasive characteristics and typically takes dozens of generations to render the desired effect. Under these circumstances, ‘next generation effects’ can substantially increase the spatial and temporal complexity associated with a high level of uncertainty in ERA.

02.05.2020 |

EPA Grants First Permit to Test Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Testing could start this summer in Florida Keys

Second test would be in heavily populated Houston

The EPA on Friday granted permission for genetically engineered mosquitoes to be released into the Florida Keys and around Houston to see if they can help limit the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses.

British biotech company Oxitec Ltd was granted an experimental use permit to release a genetically engineered type of the mosquito species Aedes aegypti, which is a known vector of Zika virus and viruses that cause yellow fever and dengue fever, the Environmental Protection Agency office of Chemical Safety and Pollution announced.

Oxitec must get state and local approval before it can start field testing. But if granted, testing will take place over a two-year period in Monroe County, Fla., starting this summer, and in Harris County, Texas, beginning in 2021.

30.04.2020 |

EFSA discusses risk assessment of gene drives

Testbiotech demands that ‘cut-off’ criteria are applied

30 April 2020 / The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) carried out a public consultation on guidance for the risk assessment of so-called gene drives at the request of the EU Commission. At the same time, a new Testbiotech scientific paper was accepted after peer review. The paper shows that the EFSA concept is insufficient. To control the risks of gene drives, ‘cut-off criteria’ need to be defined to prevent the uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms.

Gene drives are genetic elements which can spread much more widely than would normally be expected. In recent years, artificial gene constructs have been developed using the gene scissor CRISPR/Cas. Organisms, inheriting such gene constructs, are meant to be released and intended to spread rapidly, especially throughout wild populations. The goal is to replace or eradicate the targeted species. However, once started, the spread can no longer be effectively controlled. Damage to human health and the environment can be extensive.

Against this backdrop, EFSA is currently working on guidance for the risk assessment of mosquitoes which inherit genetically engineered gene drives. There are already proposals to use these mosquitoes to fight malaria in Africa: the plan is to eradicate those species which can transmit malaria via a mutagenic chain reaction, or replace them with mosquitoes that can no longer be a vector of the disease.

29.04.2020 |

Native Corn Is Now Protected as of Part of Mexico’s National Heritage

Many heritages take pride in the products, crops, and material goods they make and provide that are indigenous to their location. These products, at times, are stolen or dishonestly acquired by others and claimed as their own. Mexico, a country known for many indigenous goods, is taking measures to make sure that one very special crop is protected from plundering.

(.....)

The new bill seeks to guarantee the preservation and promotion of native Mexican corn varieties against competition from other countries who are trying to replicate modern hybrids and GMO (or genetically modified) corn. “Genetically modified corn” refers to varieties of corn that have been developed to be resistant to certain kinds of infestations and adverse climate conditions such as drought.

28.04.2020 |

Gene Drives at Tipping Points

Precautionary Technology Assessment and Governance of New Approaches to Genetically Modify Animal and Plant Populations

This open access book reports on a pilot project aiming at collecting information on the socio-ecological risks that could arise in the event of an uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms into the environment. The researchers will, for instance, be taking a closer look at genetically engineered oilseed rape, genetically engineered olive flies as well as plants and animals with so-called gene drives. The book mainly adresses researchers.

Arnim von Gleich1

Winfried Schröder2

1.Department of Technological Design and Development, Faculty Production EngineeringUniversity of BremenBremenGermany

2.Lehrstuhl für LandschaftsökologieUniversität VechtaVechtaGermany

27.04.2020 |

GeneTip project results published in full

New publication on technology assessment of gene drives

27 April 2020 / The GeneTip research project was a joint enterprise carried out from 2017 until 2019 by the Universities of Bremen and Vechta, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and Testbiotech, Munich. The researchers focused on risks associated with the spread of newly designed genetically engineered organisms into the environment. In particular, the project examined plants and animals with a so-called gene drive. The results have now been published in full by the Springer Publishing Company in a book titled “Gene Drives at Tipping Points“ (open access).

The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and coordinated by the University of Bremen (project code 01LC1724). The published results give a detailed overview of the technical characteristics of gene drives as well as associated risks.

Gene drives are designed to spread genetically engineered organisms rapidly through natural populations. In populations with sexual reproduction, genetic characteristics are normally distributed with a 50% probability to the offspring. The gene drive mechanism, however, interferes with process of natural inheritance, aiming to pass on new genetic information to almost 100% of following generations. There are ongoing debates about using gene drives to combat insects such as mosquitoes and fruit flies, or rodents such as mice and rats. The aim is to suppress or eradicate the target species within a region, or to replace it with genetically engineered populations.

24.04.2020 |

Citizens of the world, reclaim our seed!

Let us celebrate International Seed Day, not World Intellectual Property Day

#InternationalSeedDay

We are living in extraordinarily challenging times. The COVID-19 health crisis has fomented an economic crisis, and exposed the underlying risks, fragilities, and inequities in our food systems. It is essential for us to reclaim our seed diversity, biodiverse ecosystems and bio-cultural landscapes, that support nutritious local food systems and millions of livelihoods. In light of the pandemic, we demand the full protection and fulfillment of the rights of small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples across our planet.

On April 26th, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) celebrate the World Intellectual Property Day 2020 under the slogan “Innovate for a green future”.

24.04.2020 |

CUJ and the No! GMO Campaign: Please Reply to Our Questions Regarding Glyphosate Use in Hokkaido

Request to cease use of pre-harvest glyphosate in soybeans and reply to questions regarding its use

In response to our questionnaire dated March 17 2020, you responded on March 27 by e-mail, but you did not answer our questions 1 to 4.

Domestic agriculture is in a deep crisis due to trade agreements such as the TPP, the EU-Japan EPA, and the US-Japan FTA. We believe that the pursuit of safety in order to compete with cheap imported agricultural products is the best way to increase confidence in domestic agriculture and to survive. Many of the JAs under your organization are actively reducing the use of pesticides and pursuing environmentally friendly agriculture. Not only do we want you to produce safe agricultural products, but we also want to support domestic agriculture, which is responsible for Japan’s food self-sufficiency, and we worry about the health of the producers who are spraying pesticides.

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