European GMO-Free Regions Conference

04.10.2019 |

Highlight negative results to improve science

Publishers, reviewers and other members of the scientific community must fight science’s preference for positive results — for the benefit of all, says Devang Mehta.

Near the end of April, my colleagues and I published an unusual scientific paper — one reporting a failed experiment — in Genome Biology. Publishing my work in a well-regarded peer-reviewed journal should’ve been a joyous, celebratory event for a newly minted PhD holder like me. Instead, trying to navigate through three other journals and countless revisions before finding it a home at Genome Biology has revealed to me one of the worst aspects of science today: its toxic definitions of ‘success’.

Our work started as an attempt to use the much-hyped CRISPR gene-editing tool to make cassava (Manihot esculenta) resistant to an incredibly damaging viral disease, cassava mosaic disease. (Cassava is a tropical root crop that is a staple food for almost one billion people.) However, despite previous reports that CRISPR could provide viral immunity to plants by disrupting viral DNA, our experiments consistently showed the opposite result.

In fact, our paper also showed that using CRISPR as an ‘immune system’ in plants probably led to the evolution of viruses that were more resistant to CRISPR. And although this result was scientifically interesting, it wasn’t the ‘positive’ result that applied scientists like me are taught to value. I had set off on my PhD trying to engineer plants to be resistant to viral diseases, and instead, four years later, I had good news for only the virus.

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Photo: © Sanjay Kumar

GMO-Free Europe, Berlin 2018

More than 200 participants from GMO Free Regions throughout Europe, as well as guests from North-America, Asia, New Zealand and Africa (35 nations in total) met in Berlin to discuss new an old challenges of genetic engineering in agriculture as well as the environment at large. They were relieved and reassured by the recent European Court of Justice’ decision that all forms of genetic engineering, including CRISPR-Cas and other forms of so called “gene editing” fall under the European directive on GMOs. This requires risk assessment and specific approval for each GM product, traceability and labelling. For further details and documentation see conference website.

GMO-Free Europe, Berlin 2015

From 6 to 8th May 2015 more than 400 representatives of regional governments, business, science and civil society from 60 countries and all continents met for the 8th conference and 10th anniversary of GMO Free Europe. For further details and documentation see conference website.

GMO-Free Europe
Brussels 2012

The 7th European GMO Free Regions Conference welcomed 200 participants from 33 countries inSeptember 2012 in Brussels. Key issues were the question of national bans for the cultivation of GMO crops. Sofia Gatica and Maria Godoy, two mothers from Argentina, called upon Europeans to stop the import of GM soybeans. Conference proceedings


GMO-Free Europe
Brussels 2010

300 people from 37 countries joined the 6th European Conference of GMO-Free Regions in Brussels and Ghent, 16-18 September 2010, including EU-Commissioner John Dalli, heads of supermarkets and leaders of the GMO Free movement inside and outside Europe.  Conference proceedings and audiovisuals

Food+Democracy
Lucern 2009

On 24/25th April 2009 the 5th European GMO Free Conference was hosted by the Swiss movement against GMOs in Lucern, including the Speaker of the National Council and the head of Parliament of the Canton Lucerne. They welcomed 250 representatives from 39 countries. Proceedings 


Planet Diversity
Bonn 2008

At the occasion of the UN Convention of Biological Diversity's meeting in Bonn, Germany, more than 700 representatives from 100 countries around the world gathered on April 12 to 16 in Bonn, Germany, to celebrate gmo-free agricultural diversity. A global festival, demonstration and 3 day conference with guests from all around the world marked the GMO Free Regions event 2008. Proceedings

GMO-Free Regions
Brussels 2007

300 participants from 37 countries gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels, 19-20 April 2007 to discuss strategies of the GMO free regions movement as well as burning issues such as the impacts of agro-fuels on sustainable agriculture. Proceedings

 

 

GMO-Free Regions
Berlin 2006

250 representatives of regional governments, municipalities, companies, farmers unions, consumer and environmental organisations and initiatives from 35 countries met in Berlin on January 14 - 15, 2006, for the 2nd GMO Free Regions conference.
Proceedings

GMO-FREE Europe, Berlin 2005

The First GMO Free Regions Conference took place in Berlin 22-23rd January 2005 in the Harnack house of the Max-Planck Society. 190 participants from 25 countries adopted the "Berlin Manifesto" of GMO Free Regions in Europe. More Details

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