Category Archives: Genetic Engineering

Coalition of Farmers and Environmental Groups to Challenge EPA Over Herbicide Approval

pesticide-sign_18072Lawsuit filed against Environmental Protection Agency for approval of 2,4-D use on genetically engineered corn, soy crops in six Midwest states

San Francisco, CA – A coalition of farmers and environmental groups filed a lawsuit to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today on behalf of six Midwest states where a toxic herbicide cocktail called Dow’s Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, was approved on October 15 for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Approved for use on GE corn and soybeans that were engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-resistant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D resistant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.

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Filed under Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Industrial agriculture, Pesticides

UN Biodiversity Convention urges countries to regulate synthetic biology

Our friends at the ETC Group led this victory at the recently ended UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Conference of the Parties in South Korea.  Synthetic biology, a new extreme form of genetic engineering with researchers building unique organisms designed to facilitate the manufacture of various products, was previously unregulated.  Now countries are urged to create regulations over this potentially disastrous Wild West of DNA manipulation.

Regulate Synthetic Biology Now: 194 Countries
SynBio industry’s wild west days are numbered

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A cacao farmer in Costa Rica. Despite stiff opposition from SynBio countries, the decision is a victory for farmers in the global south. Photo: Everjean

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA– In a unanimous decision of 194 countries, the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) today formally urged nation states to regulate synthetic biology (SynBio), a new extreme form of genetic engineering. The landmark decision follows ten days of hard-fought negotiations between developing countries and a small group of wealthy biotech-friendly economies. Until now, synthetic organisms have been developed and commercialized without international regulations; increasing numbers of synthetically-derived products are making their way to market. The CBD’s decision is regarded as a “starting signal” for governments to begin establishing formal oversight for this exploding and controversial field.

“Synthetic Biology has been like the wild west: a risky technology frontier with little oversight or regulation,” Jim Thomas of ETC Group explained from CBD negotiations in Korea. “At last the UN is laying down the law.”

“This international decision is very clear,” Thomas added. “Not only do countries now have to set up the means to regulate synthetic biology, but those regulations need to be based on precaution and not harming the environment.”

“The good news is that precaution won the day.”

This decision comes at a critical time. The SynBio industry is bringing some of its first products to market, including a vanilla flavour produced by synthetically modified yeast and specialized oils used in soaps and detergents derived from synthetically modified algae. In December, bay area SynBio firm Glowing Plants Inc. intends to release synthetically-engineered glow-in-the-dark plants to 6,000 recipients without government oversight. The United States is not a signatory to the CBD, making it one of only three countries that will not be formally bound by this decision (the other 2 are Andorra and the Holy See).

For the entire article click here

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Commodification of Life, Genetic Engineering, Synthetic Biology, UN, Uncategorized, Victory!

Invasive Species and The GE/GMO Relationship

Most readers of Climate Connections know that we at the Global Justice Ecology Project, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, and Biofuelwatch, consider that GE Trees can be highly invasive species. These synthetic organisms live for a long time and introduce toxins into natural ecosystems. This profoundly and negatively impacts ecosystem services. The biotech industry wants us to believe that these products are safe. The  Convention for Biological Diversity adopted the The Precautionary Principle in 2001 because adequate GMO science is uncertain, ambiguous, has omitted research areas, and lacks the basic knowledge of crucial risk assessments.

An article published yesterday in Environmental Health News and Truthout tells the horrible story of the consequences of invasive species to birds in the Great Lakes of North America.

While the invasives in the story are not GE Trees, the lessons to be learned from this invasion are fundamental and are exactly why we have to be very careful when introducing invasive species into the wild.

 

Diane Borgreen from the Wildlife Health Office collects a Franklin's gull affected by avian botulism. Botulism toxin paralyzes the muscles and results in the death of thousands of birds every year. (Photo: Lee Jones / USFWS)

Diane Borgreen from the Wildlife Health Office collects a Franklin’s gull affected by avian botulism. Botulism toxin paralyzes the muscles and results in the death of thousands of birds every year. (Photo: Lee Jones / USFWS)

Mass Murder by Botulism: surge in Great Lakes Bird Deaths Driven by Invaders

By Brian Bienkowski, Truthout. 15 October 2014

Leland, Michigan - A midsummer overcast lifts as Lake Michigan changes from inky black to a deep blue-green. Ben Turschak bends over the rail of the boat, staring into the abyss in search of an exact spot.

“There it is, there it is,” Turschak says. He points to an underwater buoy used to mark a stash of underwater cameras and monitoring equipment 60 feet below the surface.

Turschak, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate student, and his colleague Emily Tyner climb into bulky dry suits and strap on air tanks, masks and flippers, preparing for a plunge into the 60-degree water.

“I’m a little nervous, I haven’t dived here in two years. I’ve dived in the Caribbean and it’s just much harder here,” Tyner says. “This lake might as well be an ocean.”

Turschak leads Tyner down to the bottom. Ten minutes later they splash up, then climb back onto the boat and start unloading their bounty of water samples and a big bag of smelly green algae. “That’s the most gobies we’ve seen,” Tyner says. The aggressive bottom-feeding fish with a voracious appetite, accidentally imported from Eurasia, has taken over the nearshore waters here.

Read the full article here.

 

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Great Lakes, Human made disasters, Monsanto, Pollution

World Rainforest Movement on GE Trees at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Right Now

Information below from the World Rainforest Movement regarding the ongoing UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP 12 in South Korea and the controversy stirring there around the Brazilian Biosafety Commission (CTNBio)’s consideration of a request to commercialize GE eucalyptus trees in the country.

Timber corporation Suzano and their subsidiary Futuragene made this request to CTNBio earlier this year. Any such approval would blatantly violate the CBD COP-9 decision that called on all signatories to the CBD (including Brazil) to adhere to the Precautionary Approach regarding GE trees [in other words don't approve them unless they have been proven safe--which they have not, not even close!]

Please read more on the issues below.

The 12th Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is taking place in South Korea.

There are several issues being addressed by the COP 12 such as biodiversity and ecosystems conservation, invasive species, synthetic biology, benefit sharing from access to genetic resources, biofuels and many others. If you wish to learn more about the discussions taking place and why they are relevant, we would like to invite you to visit the CBD Alliance web site (http://www.cbdalliance.org) where you will be able to read about what is at stake at the COP 12. The CBD Alliance, a group of civil society actors that critically monitor and seek to influence and inform about the CBD, has identified key issues that will be debated at the CBD.

One such issue has to do with Genetically Modified Trees, also called Genetically Engineered (GE) or transgenic trees. During a previous CBD meeting (COP 9) a decision was adopted (IX/5) calling for application of the precautionary approach regarding transgenic trees. It urges parties to strictly apply the precautionary approach and not to authorise the environmental release of GE trees until research can show that any possible negative impact can be ruled out, including impacts on the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities. This international CBD decision has to be followed up and implemented at the national level. Further reading at: http://www.cbdalliance.org/en/images/COP12/Briefing_notesCOP12/Briefing_on_GE_Trees.pdf

However, in countries like Brazil and USA (whose government has never ratified the CDB), corporations have submitted applications to request the commercial release of GE Trees. Indigenous Peoples, civil society organizations and social movements in both countries are raising alarms and urge their governments not to approve those requests, amongst others on the grounds of the CBD decision. Worldwide, several groups are involved in a campaign to Stop GE Trees (see stopgetrees.org).

If you wish to read the letter sent to Brazilian authorities urging them not to authorise the request by a company involved in industrial tree plantations please visit: http://wrm.org.uy/all-campaigns/open-letter-to-be-sent-to-the-brazilian-national-technical-biosafety-commission-ctnbio/

In the USA the Indigenous Environmental Network and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees). Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest. You can read further at:
http://stopgetrees.org/indigenous-peoples-unite-stop-genetically-engineered-trees/

Finally, for those who would like to know what is happening in relation to GE Tree research in countries around the world, we invite you to read the updated WRM publication called: “GE Trees Research. A Country by Country Overview”. It includes information on whether there is research on GE Trees taking place or not in the countries included in the overview, which tree species are being engineered, for which purposes, who is behind the research and what are the risk for the environment and the communities whose livelihoods depend on it. The publication is available at : http://wrm.org.uy/books-and-briefings/ge-tree-research-a-country-by-country-overview/

We hope you find this information useful. Please let us know if you have any question.

The WRM Team


www.wrm.org.uy

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, UN, Uncategorized

Rachel Smolker on IEN’s Indigenous Peoples’ Action Camp to Stop GE Trees

Frank Billie of the Seminole Tribe from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

Frank Billie of the Seminole Tribe from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

As we reported yesterday, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US last week for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees).

Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest.

Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch, participated in the action camp as a member of the steering committee of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees.

In her blog for the Huffington Post, Smolker provides a compelling account of the purpose for the action camp and the ideas coming out of it.

Rachel SmolkerColumbus Day and the Colonization of Land, Trees and Genes

By Rachel Smolker, Huffington Post Tech Blog, October 13, 2014.

I spent the past several days participating in the Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to Stop GE Trees Action Camp in the Qualla Boundary, homelands of the Eastern Band Cherokee in North Carolina. Participants included members of tribes across the Southeast, who came to learn about plans for growing genetically engineered trees on and/or adjacent to their territories.

On Columbus Day we can sadly reflect on the brutal history of colonization that American Indians faced when Europeans “discovered” and then claimed their lands. Now, centuries later, the ongoing colonization process threatens to colonize not only their lands, but even the genetics of the trees in their forests that are central to their history and livelihoods.

Read the whole essay here.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Events, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples unite to stop genetically engineered trees, calling them another form of colonization

0_w650_h230_s1Qualla Boundary, North Carolina–In the shadow of Columbus Day and the legacy of colonization in the Americas, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees). Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest.

The Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to STOP GE Trees Action Camp focused on building an information-sharing and mobilization network of tribal representatives and community members to address the unique threats posed by GE trees to Indigenous Peoples, their culture, traditions and lifeways. Steering Committee members of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees were invited to present concerns about the social and ecological dangers of GE trees.

“All trees and the variety of life that depend on forest biodiversity have historically and will in the future continue to be a necessary part of Indigenous culture and survival, which GE trees directly threaten,” stated BJ McManama, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The action camp, which took place in the mountains of North Carolina, detailed threats of genetically engineering forms of native trees traditionally used by eastern Indigenous Peoples, specifically the American chestnut.

Cherokee participants expressed fears that American chestnuts, genetically engineered with DNA from unrelated species, would negatively impact their traditional lifeways, saying that GE trees are dead trees with no soul.

Lisa Montelongo, a Cherokee community member, mother of four and grandmother of two speaks of her concerns that Ge trees would impact future generations. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

Lisa Montelongo, a Cherokee community member, mother of four and grandmother of two speaks of her concerns that Ge trees would impact future generations. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

“I’m very concerned that GE trees would impact our future generations and their traditional uses of trees. Our basket makers, people that use wood for the natural colors of our clay work–there would be no natural life, no cycle of life in GE tree plantations,” said Lisa Montelongo of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

Genetically engineered eucalyptus trees also threaten Indigenous lands in the US South. GE eucalyptus plantations, proposed by GE tree company ArborGen, are planned from South Carolina to Florida to Texas. The future development of millions of acres of non-native and invasive GE eucalyptus trees would threaten Indigenous lands throughout the region with devastating impacts including depletion of water, contamination with toxic herbicides and pesticides and loss of biodiversity.

Danny Billie of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation, based in Florida points out how real forests "mean life to The People, but Ge trees mean death." PhotoLangelle.org

Frank Billie of the Seminole Nation, based in Florida points out how real forests “mean life to The People, but Ge trees mean death.” PhotoLangelle.org.

“This needs to be stopped immediately. This is not how the forest was meant to be used.  The forest gives life to The People, but these GE trees mean death.They are not for The People, they are only to make money for a few rich people,” said Frank Billie of the Seminole Nation, based in Florida.

100% of participants at the camp oppose the release of GE trees.

More photos below:

Frank Billie of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

Frank Billie of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

T-shirt of the Cherokee woman responsible for feeding those in attendance at the Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to STOP GE Trees Action Camp. Photo by Photolangelle.org

T-shirt of the Cherokee woman responsible for feeding those in attendance at the Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to STOP GE Trees Action Camp. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

 

 

 

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Filed under Events, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Next up in genetically engineered plants — Glowing Trees

Imagine this: It’s nearly midnight and you’ve had to park about five blocks away from your apartment. This used to be an anxiety-producing ordeal, as you hated walking alone at night. Now, it’s no big deal thanks to the comforting light of the glowing trees planted on your street.

That’s right — glowing trees.

plants. Photo: Lindsey Hoshaw/KQED

Photo: Lindsey Hoshaw/KQED

A recent post on Quest introduces audiences to Kyle Taylor, founder of Glowing Plants, which uses DNA from fireflies to engineer plants that emit an unnatural, eerie glow. Taylor hopes to begin selling seeds to the public by December 2014.

First of all, what environmental problem is this solving? Use of energy for light? Exactly how many of these faintly glowing ferns would need to fill a studio apartment to actually save energy? The Glowing Plants seem more like biological lava lamps than a proposed solution to the energy crisis.

Second, what is being done to prevent contamination? There is no mention of any research done to determine the potential effects Glowing Trees could have on plants and animals. Years from now will students in a biology class debate the ways to combat this evasive glowing species? How will these glowing plants effect nocturnal animals?

This project seems to ride on the coattails of the renewable energy platform, when in reality it’s little more than biotech decor. The priorities of this project seem to rest mainly in the idea that interfering with the  genetic course set by nature is “cool and interesting.”

Glowing Plants? City Streets Lit by Trees
by  Lindsey Hoshaw, QUEST Northern California, Oct 02, 2014

In the basement of a startup lab in San Francisco, scientist Kyle Taylor stands in a dark, windowless room.

“I kind of like to have a big reveal,” he said, taking out a small plant that shined like a nightlight. The mouse-ear cress had been injected with firefly DNA so it emitted a soft green glow.

“It looks like it’s getting brighter, but actually your eyes are adjusting,” he said, “although one day we hope to make the plants emit more light.”

Taylor is the biotechnologist behind Glowing Plants, a synthetic-biology startup company that plans to sell engineered seeds to the public in December.

Read the full article here.

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Filed under Campaign to STOP GE Trees, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs

Sewage treatment plants demonstrated to help create and circulate new mutant microbes

Last July David Cameron warned that the world could be soon cast back into the dark ages of medicine if we do not find a way to deal with newly evolving bacteria that is becoming resistant to antibiotics.

One has to make the connection between antibiotic resistant microbes and the increasing changes of life forms, including important ecosystem supporting microbes, to genetically engineered (Round-up ready, etc.) food crops and experimental GE Trees. These products are designed to boost the so called “green” economy and are untested rapidly expanding  dangers. These frankenplants are modifying ecosystems and the biosphere in ways that we have not even begun to understand. Ok, well maybe we have begun to understand.

Cameron has urged the world’s drug companies to “accelerate” the discovery of a new generation of antibiotics.

One can be sure that this will be done in the context of profitability.  Disaster capitalism knows no boundaries except profit, -not even when that conflicts with human health and sustainability. This is the same context that corporate influenced governments are using to rush to develop so called “green” strategies to climate change. Profit is the first principle–and unfortunately this is viewed through the smoked glasses of the near term quarterly reports. Complex science problems can be overwhelming even for the most talented and diligent scientists, engineers, and thinkers. We know that we don’t know enough. We know that we are moving along into a dark tunnel. We also know that many of us are organized to strongly advocate for common sense as opposed to simplistic economic growth without a thorough analysis of the consequences..

We urge a precautionary approach as a real first step in all science and in what we work for–stopping release of potential synthetic ecosystems, or radically out of control synthesized ecosystems,  without a whole lot more research. We believe our species has a responsibility to do adequate risk assessments for any developing product. We demand these concepts  be first. We do not endorse nor wish to endure watching humanity follow the money like a moth drawn to a candle. We hope that Cameron can help us find our way through the dire delima that is described below, but we have our doubts.  We know, as you do, that these issues are barging into where you live and have proven to treat humans unkindly. The dark ages of medicine is just one way to characterize our future. Shouldn’t we be demanding system change? should’t we at least demand a ban on all GE Trees? The answer to both is yes.

The article below is from July of 2014,  and helps to contextualize the out of control mutations issues that we face with the release of GE crops.

Discovery in the UK reveals role of sewer plants in creating mutated microbes that are resistant to antibiotics

UK discovery reveals role of sewer plants in antibiotic-resistant microbes (Keith Williams, Creative Commons via The Independent)

 

Drug-resistant bacteria: Sewage-treatment plants described as giant ‘mixing vessels’ after scientists discover mutated microbes in British river

Steve Connor  The Independent

Superbugs resistant to some of the most powerful antibiotics in the medical arsenal have been found for the first time in a British river – with scientists pinpointing a local sewage-treatment plant as the most likely source.

Scientists discovered the drug-resistant bacteria in sediment samples taken downstream of the sewerage plant on the River Sowe near Coventry. The microbes contained mutated genes that confer resistance to the latest generation of antibiotics.

The researchers believe the discovery shows how antibiotic resistance has become widespread in the environment, with sewage-treatment plants now acting as giant “mixing vessels” where antibiotic resistance can spread between different microbes.

A study found that a wide range of microbes living in the river had acquired a genetic mutation that is known to provide resistance to third-generation cephalosporins, a class of antibiotics used widely to treat meningitis, blood infections and other hospital-acquired infections.

Read the whole piece here 

 

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Greenwashing, Human made disasters, Synthetic Biology, Water