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 GENET.
Further information on some items (e.g. those marked +) may also be found on our Learning Links or Hot Topics pages.

18/11/05  Australian scientists find GM peas cause inflammation in lungs of mice. More details here. See research report.
18/5/10  France announces it is to authorise a GM vineyard in Alsace.
30/7/13  + Scientific study shows that genes can pass intact from food to human blood - the GM industry said this was impossible. (See also Hot Topic: GM animal feed and Archive 31/7/12)
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)
2/12/14  Study published showing GM oilseed rape growing wild in Switzerland despite a country-wide ban on import and cultivation.
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)
23/6/15  An inquiry has been launched in France after a GM lamb with jellyfish protein was sold as food illegally.
19/11/15  US regulators approve AquaBounty's GM salmon for human consumption. (See also Archive 28/5/15, 25/11/13)
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)
21/9/16  Research confirms previous findings showing that genetically engineered enzymes are potent allergens. GE enzymes are extensively used in the manufacture of food flavourings and perfumes, but few of those occupationally exposed receive regular surveillance. Research paper here.
24/11/16  A new 90 day study has shown that rats fed GM Bt corn MON810 suffered damage to part of the small intestine, supplementing previous studies on the same corn. (See also Archive 4/11/16)
24/11/16  A Chinese study of GM Bt cotton varieties has shown they inhibit the development of a beneficial soil fungus.
19/12/16  A new analysis of GM maize NK603 using the latest techniques shows the GM process caused increases in potentially toxic compounds. However the regulator EFSA has declared the maize 'substantially equivalent' to its non-GM version and in 2009 approved NK603 for human and animal consumption. (See also Archive 24/6/14, 26/1/16)
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')
17/2/17  Scientists at Edinburgh's Roslin Institute have created sterile GM chickens, intended to act as surrogates able to lay eggs from any breed. The scientific paper is here.
27/4/17  Despite a huge number of objections, UK government gives consent to complex open-air trial of GM potatoes at the Sainsbury laboratory in Norwich. (See Archive 3/2/17)
16/5/17  US research shows an association between glyphosate application and the decline of Monarch butterflies. (See also Archive 9/2/17)
30/5/17  A new study shows the new 'gene-editing' technique CRISPR causes unexpected DNA mutations that are not predicted by present computer methods.
8/6/17  GM sugar cane has been approved in Brazil for commercial growing. The Bt variety is intended to resist the cane borer insect, and import approval for the sugar is to be sought for several countries, including US, Canada, China and Japan.
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)
26/6/17  The journal 'Food Chemistry' has published an analysis by European regulators, who found illegal GM bacteria in a vitamin B2 feed additive from China.
2/8/17  The journal 'Nature' reports that CRISPR-Cas editing has been used on human embryos, in a lab study, to repair a faulty gene associated with heart disease. While there is some enthusiasm over the news, critics have warned of dangers if the technique were to be used for treating patients. (See also Archive 22/4/15)
6/8/17  + The Scottish Rural Economy Secretary has said Scotland's opt-out from growing GM crops must continue after the UK leaves the European Union, and has sought assurances from the UK Secretary, "that the UK government will not attempt to impose the cultivation of GM crops on Scotland against our will". Also, the labelling of GM food and feed products must not be weakened. (See Archive 9/8/15, also 17/2/17)
10/8/17  In the US, two independent research teams publish their work on mutant ants, created using the CRISPR-Cas9 technique to edit their genomes. The papers in 'Cell' are here and here.
23/8/17  The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa calls for a ban on the import into South Africa of a new Monsanto maize, describing it as "untested RNAi technology". The African Centre for Biodiversity has also raised concerns over this maize. (See also 15/6/17)
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)
28/9/17  + In a signed statement, over 60 international scientists say products of the 'new GM techniques' should be subject to existing GM regulations, strictly controlled, because of similar risks. The statement is here. The industry is lobbying strongly against controls. (See also Hot Topic: New Techniques)
11/10/17  + A new report reveals how GM Bt cotton almost obliterated all other cotton production in India. Other countries are mentioned.
17/10/17  Research report published by African Centre for Biodiversity: "GM Cotton in Africa: Battleground between Chinese and US Capital". Download report. [2.9MB] (See also 23/8/17)
24/10/17  India has shelved approval for the commercial cultivation of GM mustard, its first transgenic food crop, due to stiff opposition.
15/11/17  Monsanto and US farm groups sue California state, to prevent it requiring cancer warnings on products containing glyphosate. (See Archive 21/1/16)
4/12/17  Records recently released in response to open records requests show that the US military (DARPA) is the major funder of research on 'gene drives', to the tune of $100 million. Two recent papers have warned gene drives may be too powerful, and dangerous to use, in their present form. (See Archive 5/12/16)
12/12/17  European Commission issues its response to the European Citizens' Initiative carrying over 1 million signatures, saying it had no scientific or legal grounds for a ban on glyphosate. On 27 November a 'qualified majority' of EU states voted to renew the approval of glyphosate for five years. (See Archive 15/6/17, 10/9/17)

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

Of Interest in Lothians locality

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

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). (News 30/7/13 above)

GM Freeze, which provides the latest information on GM-related food products in the UK, has now launched 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.) Any letter to a supermarket could also mention the new hazard of Bt toxins (Archive 9/11/15) and the recent 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.  {NEW} The debate over the boundary between 'natural' and synthetic continues, while Ecover and Method have now been acquired by the well-known multinational SC Johnson.

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

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

10/11/17 Updated Recent Developments and Local Interest. Updated several links. Other minor updates.
9/1/18 Updated Recent Developments. Updated some links. (W3C icons onto Home page. HTML validated.)

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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