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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.
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)
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)
29/6/18  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)
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.
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)
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.
10/9/19  A study of a trial release of GM mosquitoes in Brazil shows that a new cross strain has emerged and has spread, contrary to expectations. Criticisms of the study's conclusions were lodged within a week with the journal editors. (See also 28/7/16)
27/9/19  + New research shows a very low concentration of glyphosate* can trigger breast cancer when combined with another risk factor. (*glyphosate is ...) (See also (Archive 22/10/18)
18/10/19  US researchers have found that antibiotic resistance genes from GM food survive within treated sewage sludge. It is thought this could spread antibiotic resistance in the environment. (See also Archive 13/11/14)
1/5/20  US study finds that use of the weedkiller dicamba can increase the risk of developing certain cancers. Dicamba is closely associated with certain GMHT crops, and because its spray readily drifts and damages other plants a legal action was brought to deregister it. However the ban imposed by the US court was then, in effect, ignored. (See also Archive 21/9/17)
2/7/20  A well-known Norwegian virologist discusses his research into the SARS-CoV-2 virus and how he is convinced it originated in a laboratory. (See also Archive 28/5/20)
9/7/20  US researchers have filed an application for a patent covering genetically engineered bacteria, including the bees that have these microbes in their gut. The intention is to use a process called transgenesis - this involves modifying the bacteria to use as a gene expression vector, that in turn will genetically modify the bee.
29/7/20  + The Agriculture Bill amendment intended to deregulate products of gene editing in UK agriculture, is finally dropped by the House of Lords, after widespread condemnation of the ploy. (See Archive 17/9/19, 8/6/20) The amendment however had been backed by the National Farmers Union, a move seen as a betrayal of consumers' trust.
11/8/20  + A new scientific paper outlines the risks of gene editing for plants and animals - not just the many unintended effects that can be triggered by the process. (See Archive 11/1/20, Hot Topic: Gene Editing)
8/9/20  + An international consortium announces the successful development of the first public detection method for a gene edited crop. This counters claims by GM proponents that gene edited crops are indistinguishable from non-GM crops and so can not be regulated. Details of the method here. (See Hot Topic: Gene Editing, News 11/8/20, Archive 19/7/19)
14/9/20  + Scientists from the US and the Roslin Institute describe how they used CRISPR gene editing to create sterile animals. The infertile animals then received transplanted sperm-producing stem cells and as a result produced sperm containing the donors' DNA. This is seen as a possible substitute for artificial insemination, but has led to much criticism. (See Hot Topic: Gene Editing and GM Animals)
11/10/20  In a Food Standards survey concerning Brexit, 56% of the public said they are 'unlikely to buy' GM food, while only 11% would be 'likely to buy' GM, even if much cheaper.
22/10/20  + Briefing published providing an overview of both the potential and the challenges of 'new' genetic engineering, i.e. gene editing. It explains why the new techniques need to be strictly regulated, despite industry pressure to redefine them as 'non-GM'. (See Hot Topic: Gene Editing, News 8/9/20)
5/11/20  The approval on 7 October by the Argentine government of the world's first genetically modified wheat is being opposed by farmers and civil society groups. Other concerns have been expressed, also by Brazil's wheat association.
24/11/20  + European Food Safety Authority EFSA publishes its opinion on the risks associated with gene edited plants. An independent analysis subsequently describes the report as "inadequate and misleading" on the risks to health and environment. (See Hot Topic: Gene Editing, News 22/10/20)
7/1/21  + The UK Environment Secretary announces a public consultation on a government proposal to deregulate gene editing from existing GM regulations, by altering the current definition of GM (to exclude gene editing). While the proposed change would initially alter only English law, it would in effect apply throughout the UK, because of the Internal Market Act. As a result, gene edited foods would be exempt from GM safety tests and product labelling. The consultation also has a section about changing the regulation of most GM organisms "in the longer term". (The present UK government wants to slacken the existing controls on GM - see Archive 24/7/19.) The consultation is open to everyone and runs until 17 March 2021 - details here. (See also 29/7/20, 22/10/20)
21/1/21  + A new report provides evidence that European Food Safety Authority systematically ignores specific GM risks. (See also 24/11/20, Archive 28/6/19, 19/7/19, 14/8/19, 14/1/20)

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

{NEW} With 'Brexit', the UK left the European Union at the end of 2020. There is now increasing concern that control of food standards originally devolved to the Scottish Government will be overridden by the UK Government, which is keen to reduce regulation - potentially lowering standards. At the moment the UK Government is consulting the public, as to whether the products of 'gene editing' should be excluded from current GM regulations - for details see 'The political dimension' below and Things to do. 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 after Brexit: "Safeguard our farms" and "Don't Hide What's Inside", including a petition. (See Archive 9/3/18 and Things to do)

{NEW} The major crisis caused by the 'Coronavirus' (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic is clearly uppermost in everyone's mind at present. It is important to remember that tiny genetic variations in a sub-microscopic structure (this virus) can create worldwide havoc. It may also be worth asking whether this virus could have been released due to inadequate lab security (see news 2/7/20 above) - such accidents have happened before. Finally, there remains the question of whether the UK Government took any appropriate action at all after its 2016 pandemic response exercise, 'Cygnus'.

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 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 22/10/18) 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

{NEW} The ongoing attempts by the Westminster Government to interfere with the Scottish Government's control of devolved issues, such as trade, food and agriculture, represent an ongoing challenge for anyone concerned about constitutional dysfunction, lowering of food standards, and the sale of GM products. Of particular relevance in this regard are: the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the Internal Market Act 2020[*], and the current move to exempt gene-edited food products from regulation (i.e. "deregulate" them). For more detail, see News 7/1/21, Archive 10/1/18, 29/4/18 and Hot Topic: Gene Editing.
[*A law professor's analysis of the Internal Market Act reveals that the 'consent' of devolved governments must be sought, but any objection can then be overridden.]

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

15/7/20 Updated Recent Developments, Local Interest and Political Dimension. New links here. Several older links and some 'Hot Topics' text and references brought up to date, e.g. Food Safety Tests, Animal Feed, Gene Editing, Gene Drive.
11/2/21 Updated Recent Developments, Local Interest, Political Dimension, Things to do. New database link here. A few additions and updates to Glossary and Hot Topics, particularly 'Gene editing'. Several older links updated. Minor edits/corrections and link updates now ongoing.

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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