What's New with LABB

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Recent Developments (selected)

For more on Recent Developments, refer to Learning Links and LABB News Archive
For breaking news:  GM Watch or GMO-free Regions
Further information on some items (e.g. those marked +) may also be found on our Learning Links or Hot Topics pages.

18/5/10  France announces it is to authorise a GM vineyard in Alsace.
13/11/14  The Norwegian Food Safety Authority has stopped approving GM fish feed that contains genes coding for antibiotic resistance (like many GM products). (See also Archive 6/12/12)
17/2/15  + A recent study by Naples University reports significant effects on the offspring of goats fed on GM soybeans. (See also Archive 28/11/13)
19/9/16  GM Watch analyses University of Virginia research, showing that widespread adoption of GM crops has increased the use of herbicides, as weeds become resistant. (See also Archive 25/1/13)
24/11/16  A Chinese study of GM Bt cotton varieties has shown they inhibit the development of a beneficial soil fungus.
7/2/17  + A study commissioned by the Green Party has examined the ways in which cows descended from cloned bulls can enter the European market - records have located such cows in the UK. There is no legal necessity to identify these, and the study shows this lack of transparency will not improve under CETA. (See also Hot Topic: 'Cloning & GM of Animals')
15/6/17  The US Environmental Protection Agency reveals it has approved four products using RNA interference technology (RNAi) - "containing a new and innovative plant-incorporated protectant (PIP)", 'SmartStax Pro' - in an attempt to combat resistance to Bt corn in corn rootworm. (See also Archive 30/12/16)
5/9/17  GM moths are being released in New York State by the UK company Oxitec, which has previously released other GM insects. Concerns have been raised over safety, and greater transparency is being called for. (See Archive 28/7/16)
21/9/17  Arkansas University Agriculture Division has found that every dicamba herbicide product they tested was volatile; farmers are claiming severe damage to exposed crops not genetically engineered to be resistant. The University's statement is here. (See also Archive 22/7/16)
11/10/17  + A new report reveals how GM Bt cotton almost obliterated all other cotton production in India. Other countries are mentioned.
5/3/18  Annual count in Mexico shows Monarch butterflies are at risk of extinction "if we don't take immediate action to rein in [glyphosate*] pesticide use and curb global climate change". (*glyphosate is ...) (See also Archive 16/5/17)
6/4/18  + Chinese researchers have shown that even in a glyphosate*-free environment, transgenes do confer higher fitness on GM plants, increasing their ability to spread. This possibility was dismissed in the past by the industry. (*glyphosate is ...) (See also Archive 2/12/14, Hot Topic: Gene Escape)
29/4/18  + Scottish First Minister explains the impact on devolved policy areas caused by the EU Withdrawal Bill - a.k.a. the UK Government's "power grab". Later, the chair of Food Standards Scotland warns that any new food standards and labelling could badly affect Scotland. (See also Archive 1/3/18)
16/5/18  Study shows glyphosate*-based herbicide adversely affected rats' health, even at officially safe dose. (*glyphosate is ...) (See also Archive 9/1/17, 25/8/15, 7/11/12)
29/6/18  Australian researchers feeding triple-stacked GM corn (MON863, MON810, NK603) to rats found abnormal changes in their stomachs (leaky lining). (See also Archive 24/11/16, 19/12/16)
10/7/18  Irish Cabinet decides to enable Ireland to opt out of cultivating GM crops, under EU Directive 2015/412. (See also Archive 27/8/15)
4/10/18  A project funded by US defence research agency DARPA aims to genetically modify crops by using insects to spread viruses to them. An international team of scientists and lawyers warn the technology could be used for military applications, in contravention of the Biological Weapons Convention. (See also Archive 4/12/17)
22/10/18  A San Francisco judge reduces to $78 million the compensation Monsanto must pay to a man who attributes his terminal cancer to using glyphosate* weedkillers. (*glyphosate is ...) (See Archive 10/8/18)
22/10/18  A former member of the GMO panel of EFSA has said new research backs up his earlier warning that Bt toxins can be allergenic, and accused EFSA of ignoring this issue. (See also Archive 9/11/15, 24/11/16)
23/11/18  French newspaper Le Monde reports that 8 tonnes of a banned additive has been sold in Europe, with 2.5 tonnes already known to have gone into animal feed. Around one million tonnes of feed could have been contaminated with dangerous GM bacteria, that possess resistance to antibiotics. There has been an unwarranted delay by the EU Commission in taking preventative action - since 2014.
1/12/18  + The US Navy has revealed it is researching the use of GM marine life to track enemy submarines and there is broad financial support for the military use of synthetic biology. (See also Archive 4/12/17)
16/1/19  + The John Innes Centre in Norwich applies to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to allow field trials of GM wheat and brassica ("gene-edited"). Trials are to be held every year from 2019 to 2022, April to September, and a large group of NGOs has lodged objections.
6/2/19  French and German farmers dig up fields containing traces of a GM rapeseed variety unauthorised for cultivation in Europe.
8/2/19  + Rothamsted Research applies to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to allow field trials of GM Camelina sativa (false flax) from 2019 to 2023. The trials in Hertfordshire and Suffolk involve several varieties genetically modified, including by 'gene editing' (CRISPR-Cas9). Objections have been lodged by a large group of NGOs. (This is the second Camelina trial series - see Archive 25/7/18, 1/8/18)
10/2/19  Scientific study reveals that exposure to glyphosate*-based herbicides is associated with an increased risk of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. (*glyphosate is ...)  (See also 22/10/18)
5/3/19  + A scientific study concludes that products of new GM techniques (nGM), such as gene editing, can not be assumed to be safe, and should be regulated accordingly. (See also Archive 22/11/18, 3/1/19)
6/3/19  The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich applies to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to allow field trials of GM potatoes - intended to resist blight, prevent nematode attack, or improve quality. The trials at Cambridge and Brooms Barn are to occur between 2019 and 2021. GM Freeze and several organisations submitted a joint objection.
13/5/19  + GM Watch has scrutinised a recent expert report, and concludes that products of gene editing will in fact be identifiable and traceable, particularly when regulated correctly. (See also 5/3/19)
20/5/19  + A report by international scientists concludes that gene drive technology "as it stands, is not fit for application" and "Existing biosafety rules ... are deficient and not fully equipped to manage the unique risks". Report summary here. (See also Archive 29/11/18)
11/6/19  + US President Donald Trump issues an executive order that includes the imperative to "increase international acceptance" and "remove unjustified trade barriers" for GMOs. This implies a US push to de-regulate gene-edited crops in the EU/UK. (See also 5/3/19)
28/6/19  + The independence of the EFSA gene drive risks group is called into question, with several members said to have conflicts of interest. (See also 20/5/19)
19/7/19  + Previously unseen official documents show the European Commission has failed to follow EU law and develop testing methods for new gene-edited GM foods. (See also 13/5/19)
24/7/19  The new prime minister Boris Johnson pledges to "liberate" the UK bioscience sector from "anti-GM" rules - evoking immediate criticism from Soil Association and GM Watch. (See also Archive 2/10/18, 3/1/19)
14/8/19  + A scientific paper re-examines the impacts of GM maize MON810 on honeybees and earthworms, and concludes the EFSA GMO Panel produced low-quality advice in its original safety assessment. (See also Archive 6/10/16, 24/11/16)

Hot Topics

The 'Hot Topics' section provides brief introductions to some important aspects of GM at the present time. If you have further suggestions for suitable topics, please let us know.
DNA & Genes   Breeding v GM   Coexistence   GM & Environment   Gene Escape
GM Food   GM Food Safety Tests   GM animal feed   Biofuels   Scotland's Food & Drink Policy
Cloning & GM of Animals   Synthetic Biology   New Techniques / Gene Editing    Gene Drive

Of Interest in Lothians locality

The predominance of products from animals fed on GM feed, in supermarkets, continues to be a major concern. These products, such as meats, fish, eggs, and milk products, are not required to be labelled as GM. (See Hot Topic: GM animal feed)

Shoppers should note the policy change of Sainsbury's supermarkets relating to the 'Taste the Difference' range of foods, since these may now come from animals fed on GM feed. (See Archive 6/3/17) Research has shown that gene fragments can pass from any food into animal tissue, along with any residues of herbicide (commonly used on GM crops). (Archive 30/7/13)

GM Freeze, which provides the latest information on GM-related food products in the UK, has launched two public campaigns to safeguard farms and food as the UK prepares to leave the European Union: "Safeguard our farms" and "Don't Hide What's Inside", which incorporates a petition. (See Archive 9/3/18 and Things to do)

GM Freeze also continues its 'Feed me the Truth' campaign. This ranks supermarkets on their commitment to supporting and developing non-GM-fed animal products. Leaflets and an Action Guide are available, and supporters are encouraged to carry out imaginative in-store actions to highlight shortcomings.

Customers need to keep up their pressure on supermarkets says GM Freeze, which offers an up to date guide to the issues, and tips on letter writing, together with supermarket contact details. (See also Archive 4/7/16 re stores in Europe.) A letter to a supermarket could also mention the hazard of Bt toxins (Archive 9/11/15) and the classification of glyphosate* as "probably carcinogenic to humans". (i.e. capable of causing cancer. *glyphosate is ...) (See Archive 20/3/15, 9/1/17).

There is also an increasing number of labelled GM products, on sale now in supermarkets. These may not be immediately obvious to the average shopper, and GM Freeze is keen to get reports on where they are being sold, and keep its list up to date.

And, unfortunately, anyone who eats in a cafe, or other food outlet, could quite possibly be consuming GM material unknowingly, since the management may not be aware of the labelling laws. A guide from GM Freeze is now available: "What's in your chips?" A survey was recently published on customers' attitudes to GM food in restaurants and cafes (see Archive 22/5/17).

A question mark arose in 2014 over the alleged use of synthetic biology to produce 'natural' detergents briefly marketed by Ecover. There was a public petition opposing any such use, (see Archive 2/6/14 and Hot Topic: Synthetic Biology) and the wording of Ecover's response was criticised at the time as inaccurate. The debate over the boundary between 'natural' and synthetic continues, while Ecover and Method have now been acquired by the US multinational SC Johnson, a move deplored by Naturewatch Foundation.

Meat from the offspring of cloned cows has gone into the UK food supply chain - this was initially deemed to be illegal, but now the Food Standards Agency has performed a U-turn and meat and milk from the offspring of cloned animals is not even to be labelled. (See Hot Topic: Cloning & GM of Animals) There are significant problems such as food safety and animal cruelty, so you may want to raise these points with your MP. You may also want to discuss the issue with your butcher, who may not be aware of the problems of cloning.

The political dimension

The attempt by the Westminster Government to take back control of devolved issues, such as trade, food and agriculture, is a concern for anyone concerned about lowering of food standards, and the growing of GM crops. (See News 29/4/18 (above), Archive 10/1/18)

In April 2013 several supermarkets announced they would now allow their suppliers of animal products to feed the animals GM feed (See Archive 12/4/13). Even by cut-throat business standards this was difficult to understand, flying in the face of many facts, but suggested a cartel operating against consumers' interests. It seems to be part of a continuing mindless drive to maximise store profits in the short term, to the detriment of the farmer/supplier and now the customer. At the moment, most supermarkets seem to be racing toward rock-bottom prices and quality. The shopper concerned over the mounting scientific evidence of GM hazards will now need to buy more wisely and widely, particularly looking to the smaller 'organic' outlets. Fortunately there is now the prospect of identifying non-GM animal products in the UK using the German "ohne GenTechnik" label. (See Archive 12/3/13) And pressure from German supermarkets has persuaded their largest poultry supplier to return to GM-free feed. (See Archive 8/12/14)

Some light has now been shed on why most supermarkets have adopted what at first seemed to be an irrational position. The covert dealings of two UK Government departments and their ministers have now been partially exposed to the public gaze - see news item 6/5/14 in Archive. Not only has the UK Government provided unprecedented support to the GM corporations, but there have also been concerted efforts to manipulate the mainstream media. The hidden forces have now been revealed that allowed GM animal feed to distort the supply chain to the supermarkets. There is also evidence that the trust of the Scottish Government was betrayed by the then UK Environment Secretary (see news item 23/4/14 in Archive). These are serious matters.

The Scottish Government has taken steps to prohibit the commercial growing of GM crops in Scotland, as permitted under new EU legislation. (See Archive 9/8/15) This continues its long-standing policy of opposing GM in agriculture. The move will not hinder genetic engineering research (e.g. for medical purposes, where controls are in any case stricter).

To find out more about these issues, and what action you can take, please refer to Things to Do

Changes to this website

27/3/19 Updated Recent Developments.
7/9/19 Updated Recent Developments. Updated links here, here, here and here. Note minor edits/corrections will be ongoing as of now, as required.

We aim to keep this site fairly up to date, and pages are checked frequently for validity - your feedback is welcome. To view the change date of any page, right-click and select Page Info or Properties. Links to significantly outdated information will be removed. Recent changes are marked in red, thus: {NEW}. The date of the change is revealed by resting the mouse pointer there.

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