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Africans paid 69 cents an hour to be bitten in GMO mosquito trial

Under the headline, "Malaria trial pays Africans to be bitten", The Times of London reports that human “guinea pigs” in the West African state of Burkina Faso are being paid to expose themselves to mosquitoes that could potentially carry malaria or other diseases. Although the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $70 million in the project, The Times reports that about 25 African “volunteers” in the village of Bana are being paid just 69 cents (£0.55) an hour to expose their legs for six hours a night to all mosquitoes in their local environment, as part of a GMO mosquito trial.

United Nations hits the brakes on gene drives

Normal inheritance and Gene Drive inheritance

The UN has made a significant global decision on how to govern a high-risk new genetic engineering technology – gene drives. The 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. “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,” explained 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.”

Cutting corners on consent

A new UN agreement requires organizations seeking to release gene-drive organisms – which will fundamentally change or even eliminate entire populations of that species – to obtain the “free, prior, and informed consent” of potentially affected communities. But that isn't happening. Consider the record of the Gates-funded Target Malaria, the world’s largest organization undertaking gene-drive experiments, whose employees were included in the official negotiating teams of at least two African countries to push back against excessive limitations. Target Malaria has failed to obtain informed consent from the villagers potentially affected by its gene drive mosquitoes

Campaigners demand ban on GMOs in Nigeria

Representatives of farmers, consumers, civil society organisations, scientists, youth and women groups on December 17, 2018 denounced the admission into Nigeria of GM crops and products. The condemnation was made at a public rally in Abuja, where the campaigners said that the products pose a threat to the nation’s food system, biosafety and overall well being.

"Father of Green Revolution in India" slams GM crops as unsustainable and unsafe

M.S. Swaminathan

Since 1988 M.S. Swaminathan, "father of the Green Revolution in India", has headed his own research foundation. In the early 2000s the Foundation saw GM crops, and biotechnology in general, not only as having immense potential but as "the only way we can face the challenges of the future". But Swaminathan's promotion of GM crops has been increasingly marked by important caveats, reflecting a concern for sustainability, biosafety, and the impact of agricultural innovations on the rural poor. And those concerns would seem to underpin a remarkable newly published peer-reviewed paper that he co-authored with his colleague P.C. Kesavan, in which he condemns GM crops as unsustainable and says they should be banned in India. He is also severely critical of the performance of India's regulators.

Big tongues and extra vertebrae: The unintended consequences of animal gene editing

The Wall Street Journal reports that the recent proliferation of genome editing experiments on farm animals raises questions both about animal welfare and the supposed precision of new GM techniques, like CRISPR. Recent studies suggest such techniques may cause greater damage than previously understood — including changes in genes other than those intended. When DNA is cut, “a lot of odd things can happen,” the leader of one study reported. When Chinese researchers deleted a gene that limits muscle growth in mammals so that rabbits would grow leaner, their creations exhibited enlarged tongues. Similar experiments on Chinese pigs led some to develop an additional vertebrae. Gene-edited calves died prematurely in Brazil and New Zealand. “Humans have a very long history of messing around in nature with all kinds of unintended consequences,” said Lisa Moses, an animal bioethicist at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics. “It’s really hubris of us to assume that we know what we’re doing and that we can predict what kinds of bad things can happen.”

Intrexon/AquaBounty receive regulatory exemption for GM tilapia

GMO salmon and GMO apple company Intrexon and its subsidiary AquaBounty have announced that its gene-edited tilapia is exempt from GMO regulations according to Argentina's National Advisory Commission on Agricultural Biotechnology (CONABIA).

How France and Germany are ousting glyphosate in search for healthy soils, pesticide-free crops

The Macron Government of France is offering its farmers a way out of glyphosate dependency within the next three years. In Germany the Minister for the Environment is calling for a binding date for the complete cessation of the use of glyphosate. But the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture is resisting a complete phase-out programme.

New analysis reveals shortfalls of European Union (EU) pesticide authorisation system and proposes solutions

Aerial View of- tractor pesticide spraying

A new White Paper, coordinated by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe and produced by a group of 24 experts from the fields of pesticides, risk assessment, human and environmental health – including international scientists, legal and policy experts, and GMWatch editor Claire Robinson – identifies the many shortfalls in the safety assessment of pesticides in Europe that lead to dangerous substances being used in open spaces. The analysis also proposes concrete solutions on how to improve the pesticide risk assessment in Europe in line with the requirements of EU law.

EU Parliament report shows problems with current pesticide authorization system

The Special Committee of the European Parliament set up to investigate the European Union’s authorisation procedure for pesticides (PEST Committee) has voted in favour of its draft report pointing out the shortfalls of the EU's pesticide approval procedure and presenting recommendations for reform. The report, voted through by a majority of members of the PEST Committee (23 out of the 29), addresses problems including the involvement of the pesticide industry in the toxicity assessment of a pesticide substance or product, the misuse of the academic scientific literature, the lack of sensitive testing for neurological and other serious diseases, the lack of post-market monitoring data to assess the real impact of pesticides, and the data gaps in the dossiers.

EU reports on pesticides are copy-pasted from industry dossiers

Anises and Syngenta reports

Remember the copy-paste scandal, when Greenpeace uncovered that the EU report on glyphosate was, over many pages, identical to the application dossier submitted by Monsanto and other pesticide companies? Now a team of journalists has found that this is common practice. The team checked 25 EU risk assessment reports prepared by different Rapporteur Member States, and in particular the human health parts. It found that many national authorities had done what the German authority BfR had done for glyphosate – they copied large chunks of text from the application dossiers over to the EU report, without any indication of the source.

Bayer fights transparency of industry studies on pesticides, GMOs

Chemical company Bayer is fighting against a plan from the EU Commission for more transparency in the controversial approval of pesticides and GM crops. The association of European pesticide producers, the ECPA, which is chiefly controlled by the German company, has rejected in a position paper the most important points of the Commission's draft regulation.

EU Parliament adopts industry's "innovation principle" in research programme

The European Parliament has adopted the “innovation principle” in the 100 billion Euro research framework Horizon Europe. This so-called principle is a tool invented by industry lobbies to undermine EU social and environmental regulations. It seeks to assess regulations for their “impact on innovation”, rather than assessing innovation for its impact on our health and environment. Documents released under freedom of information laws show that industries are trying to use the innovation principle to undermine EU laws on chemicals, novel foods, pesticides, nano-products and pharmaceuticals, as well as legal principles of environmental and human health protection which are enshrined in the EU Treaty. The principle's incorporation into Horizon Europe marks the first time it has ever been written into EU law.

Scientist unveils blueprint to save bees and enrich farmers

The collapse in bee populations can be reversed if countries adopt a new farmer-friendly strategy, the architect of a new masterplan for pollinators told a UN biodiversity conference. Stefanie Christmann of the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas presented the results of a new study that shows substantial gains in income and biodiversity from devoting a quarter of cropland to flowering economic crops such as spices, oil seeds, medicinal and forage plants.

Beekeepers say problems from weedkiller, dicamba, pose a threat

Dicamba is a herbicide sprayed on GM dicamba-tolerant crops. The problem is, it's drifting onto non-tolerant crops and plants and damaging them. Now beekeepers say that bees are set to prove a casualty. One said, "This dicamba is the absolute worst problem we’ve ever had. It’s going to kill everything that puts on a flower that bees can eat.”

Missouri farmer charged with illegally using dicamba weedkiller

A Missouri farmer has been indicted on federal charges of illegally applying a weedkiller blamed for drifting and damaging crops in neighboring fields. Farmer Bobby David Lowrey is accused of illegally applying the herbicide dicamba on his GM cotton and soybean crops outside of Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, and lying to investigators when confronted about it.

Chinese scientist claims he has created CRISPR babies

A Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, has claimed that he and his team have genetically engineered human embryos using the CRISPR technique in a clinical trial. The supposed aim to prevent the resulting babies from contracting HIV in their lifetimes. It is not clear whether live births have resulted. He Jiankui told the media that one couple in the trial gave birth to twin CRISPR'd girls this month, but his claim has not been verified independently. China has announced that it has halted his work.

Chinese scientist who claimed gene-editing success missing

The Chinese scientist who claimed to have created the world's first gene-edited babies, He Jiankui, has been reported missing.

CRISPR baby scandal blunders

The alleged creation of the world's first gene-edited infants by Chinese scientist He Jiankui was full of technical errors and ethical blunders. Here are the 15 most damning details.

Failure of scientific self-regulation means lawmakers must ban designer baby experiments

Human Fetus

The Hong Kong conference at which He Jiankui announced that he had created GM babies, the Organizing Committee of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, responded with a weak statement. While the Committee conceded that He Jiankui's claimed actions were "irresponsible and failed to conform with international norms", it then proceeded to give advice on what it sees as an acceptable "translational pathway to germline editing". Dr David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, said, "We call upon international civil society and the UN to establish an international convention banning human reproductive cloning and genetic engineering." More NGO responses are here.

We need a moratorium on using gene editing to create babies

American biologist Paul Knoepfler has called for a temporary moratorium on gene-edited babies. He also says he doesn't understand the rationales for human germline editing: "They largely consist of invoking incredibly rare or even hypothetical scenarios where CRISPR might serve some purpose that cannot be achieved by already proven and safe embryo screening methods such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis."

Over 1m tonnes of animal feed in Europe may contain banned GMOs

Over one million tonnes of animal feed in Europe could be contaminated by banned GMOs contained in a vitamin-based additive. Eight tonnes of a vitamin B2 additive produced by a GM strain of the Bacillus subtilis bacteria have been sold in Poland, Italy, and the Netherlands between April and June. The additive, also known as riboflavin, is used in the feed of cattle, pigs, and poultry.

Soybeans from Ukraine: GM and undeclared

In Ukraine, GM soybeans are cultivated illegally on a large scale and marketed without declaration. This is shown by studies conducted by the Romanian environmental organisation Agent Green.

Non-GMO food and feed industry welcomes ECJ ruling to provide legal certainty

Seventy-five non-GMO food and feed companies from 10 European countries have welcomed in an open letter to Commission President Juncker and Health Commissioner Andriukaitis the clear legal objectives resulting from the 25 July 2018 judgement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on new genetic engineering methods. They call on the EU Commission to swiftly implement the measures required as a result of the ruling to safeguard GMO-free production in Europe. The signatory companies, including the retailers Edeka, Rewe and SPAR, generated sales of 144.2 billion Euros in 2017 and employ 833,000 people.

EU Patent Office undermines ban on patenting of plants and animals from conventional breeding

On 5 December, in a public hearing on a patent on pepper plants owned by Syngenta, the Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO) paved the way for new patents being granted on plants and animals derived from conventional breeding. This has put the EPO into conflict with its 38 member states that decided to stop these patents, such as those on broccoli and tomatoes derived from conventional breeding.


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

Maize growing in field

African farmers are demanding that the British pro-GMO lobbyist Mark Lynas cease using their images in GMO promotionals. Lynas had claimed that Tanzanians are going hungry because they are not adopting GM drought-tolerant and insect-resistant maize and are relying instead on local non-GM varieties. Lynas and his employer the Cornell Alliance for Science had mis-used images and footage of Tanzanian farmers to promote his deceptive messages. Now the farmers want Lynas to remove their images from all internet platforms and publicity materials. In addition, Lynas’s mischief-making in Tanzania may have triggered the country's ending of GMO field trials.

Maize, maize everywhere, but where will Tanzania sell its surplus?

Ironically, in light of Mark Lynas's propagandising about Tanzanians going hungry because they don't have GM maize (see above), it appears that Tanzania has far too much maize and doesn't know what to do with it all!

Tanzania orders destruction of Monsanto/Gates’ GM trials due to illegal use for pro-GM propaganda

Tanzania has stopped all ongoing GMO field trials taking place in the country. The trials were being run under the auspices of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project which includes Monsanto, the Gates Foundation and national research centres. The decision came after the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) released the results of the trials without the necessary authorisation, when it invited certain members of the public, including the pro-GM lobbyist, Mark Lynas, to witness how "well" the GM crops were performing.

Koch, Spiked, and Mark Lynas: Uncomfortable bedfellows?

David Koch, Spiked logo, Mark Lynas

The Guardian recently published an article by George Monbiot – "How US billionaires are fuelling the hard-right cause in Britain" – exposing how Spiked magazine’s US funding arm received $300,000 from the ultra-libertarian, pro-corporate Charles Koch Foundation. Spiked is the derivative of a Trotskyist sect known as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) – but it promotes the agenda of the hard-right. It is full of articles promoting GMOs, attacking organic farming, and denying climate change, as well as railing against “the green elite” and “the environmentalist enemy within”. Pro-GMO lobbyist Mark Lynas claims to "loathe" Spiked even though he loves GMOs. But in many of his GMO-promoting activities, he is intricately involved with key people from Spiked and its associated libertarian "LM network".