Apr 292016
 
“Contained” industrial use of GE microbes: A regulatory loophole large enough for most commercial synthetic biology uses to fit through

by Almuth Ernsting (ECO Volume 52, Issue 2) The vast majority of current synthetic biology applications involve microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi (e.g. yeast) and microalgae. Nearly all uses of genetically engineered (GE) microorganisms are classed as ‘contained’, a term which, under different countries’ and regions’ regulations covers all uses inside industrial facilities, such as biofuel refineries, as well as manufacturing plants. GE microorganisms are being used, for example, to produce algal oils included in cosmetics, [More]

Apr 272016
 
No new GMOs through the back door!

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, La Via Campesina and other organisations are hosting a petition calling on the European Commission to effectively regulate new GMOs. These organisms are having their genes “edited” through new GM and synbio techniques, and the companies developing them are claiming that they’re not technically GMOs, so they shouldn’t face the same regulations around their testing, labeling and commercialisation. We disagree! These new GMOs should be treated just the same as [More]

Apr 262016
 
God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and The Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing

by Jonathan Latham, PhD (Independent Science News) For the benefit of those parts of the world where public acceptance of biotechnology is incomplete, a public relations blitz is at full tilt. It concerns an emerging set of methods for altering the DNA of living organisms. “Easy DNA Editing Will Remake the World. Buckle Up“; “We Have the Technology to Destroy All Zika Mosquitoes“; and “CRISPR: gene editing is just the beginning”. (CRISPR is short for [More]

Apr 222016
 
Precautionary approach to synthetic  biology needs to be translated into  effective regulation

by Almuth Ernsting ([square brackets]) The Ad-hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Synthetic Biology [1] reaffirmed the need to observe the precautionary approach in relation to synthetic biology. Its report lists 15 potential adverse impacts of synthetic biology and emphasises the need for comprehensive case-by-case risk assessments. Disappointingly, no agreement could be reached as to “whether or not current methodologies to address the environmental impacts of the components and products of synthetic biology are adequate [More]

Apr 222016
 
Synthetic biology: A continuing  challenge for the CBD

by Helena Paul and Silvia Ribeiro ([square brackets]) The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) pioneered the discussion on synthetic biology at the global level, with the vast majority of countries asking for the full application of precaution. Following the decisions taken at the twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the Convention and the report and recommendations of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Synthetic Biology in 2015, the [More]

Apr 222016
 
New GMOs are 'not GM' - EU folds under US pressure

by Oliver Tickell (the Ecologist) The EU Commission has caved in to US pressure in TTIP trade talks by deciding to consider organisms modified by new ‘gene editing’ techniques as non-GM – in violation of the EU’s own laws. The move could make the ‘new GMOs’ exempt from labeling and from health and environmental testing. The TTIP negotiations are seen by industry and the US government as the perfect opportunity to block EU processes that [More]

Apr 212016
 
Who Approved the Genetically Engineered Foods Coming to Your Plate? No One.

by Mike Orcutt (MIT Technology Review) The debate over genetically modified foods is about to get a lot more heated in Washington, D.C. DuPont Pioneer’s new waxy corn hybrid and a Penn State plant scientist’s “anti-browning” white button mushroom are the latest additions to a fast-growing pile of new genetically engineered crops that have so far avoided any government regulation. New gene-editing techniques like CRISPR are making this possible, and they are underscoring the fact [More]

Apr 042016
 
From rogue scientists to DIY biohackers: real threats to ecosystems are not being taken seriously

This spring could see new synbio techniques literally hitting the streets, with DIY biohacking kits going on sale. These promise you the ability to make yeast turn red. More significantly, other biohackers are planning to post synbio glow-in-the-dark plants to enthusiasts throughout the US. Whilst these biohacking gimmicks may sound perfectly innocuous, they are potentially very dangerous, essentially unregulated, presumably self-replicating, and about to be mailed out throughout the US. As is described below, the [More]

Apr 042016
 
Craig Venter Lays an Easter Egg

Six Years in the Making, “Synthia” is Resurrected Synthetic Biology, according to its proponents, is moving at five times the pace of Moore’s law – basically doubling its capabilities and halving its costs every four months. Except that brash billionaire Craig Venter, often dubbed Bioscience’s Bad Boy, is no Gordon Moore.  Venter has just announced that his team has produced Synthia 3.0 – the simplest human-made and self-replicating lifeform ever. Synthia 1.0 was announced – [More]

Mar 152016
 
Biofuel or Biofraud? The Vast Taxpayer Cost of Failed Cellulosic and Algal Biofuels

by Almuth Ernsting (Independent Science News) Biofuels consumed today are usually ethanol made from the sugar in sugar cane (or sugar beet) or they may be made from starch in grains. In the US this is mostly corn starch. Alternatively, biodiesel may be made from plant oils such as soybean or canola oil. Cellulosic biofuels, on the other hand, are biofuels made from crop residues (e.g. corn stover), wood, or whole plants, especially grasses (e.g. [More]

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