Environmental Impacts

Oct 102016
 
A Collision Course with Unintended Consequences

by Melody Meyer (Organic Matters) In an early morning jaunt to Sacramento last week my car was rear ended.  I serve on the California Organic Products Advisory Committee (who by the way are looking for new members), and was on my way to attend a subcommittee meeting when boom—a fine young man rammed me in the rear. As I recuperate from the trauma, I wax philosophical and wonder why this happened and what the long [More]

Jun 102016
 
The National Academies’ Gene Drive study has ignored important and obvious issues

by Jim Thomas (The Guardian): ‘Gene drives’ seem to be the ultimate high-leverage technology. Yesterday’s report from the US National Academies begun the job of describing what is at stake, but it missed some important questions. If there is a prize for the fastest emerging tech controversy of the century the ‘gene drive’ may have just won it. In under eighteen months the sci-fi concept of a ‘mutagenic chain reaction’ that can drive a genetic [More]

Jun 092016
 
Permanently changing a species: What could go wrong?

by Dana Perls, Food and Technology campaigner (Friends of the Earth US) No commercial or environmental release of gene drives, says Friends of the Earth The National Academies of Sciences released a new report today, which calls for robust safety assessments for “gene drive modified organisms.” The NAS says the controversial new genetic engineering technology is not ready for release into the environment. These genetic engineering technologies under development go far beyond genetic engineering as [More]

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 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]

Feb 032016
 
Beware False Promises: Algal Oils and Other Products of Synthetic Biology Aren’t About to Save the Orangutan…. But Carry Serious New Risks

Joint briefing by Biofuelwatch and Friends of the Earth United States: Beware False Promises: Algal Oils and Other Products of Synthetic Biology Aren’t About to Save the Orangutan…. But Carry Serious New Risk “Algal oil” and “oily yeast” have been aggressively promoted as promising alternatives to palm oil and potential saviours of orangutans. At the forefront of this promotion is the California-based biotech company Solazyme. They make no mention of synthetic biology—which is an extreme [More]

Dec 282015
 
Re-engineering life? The dangers of 'next generation' biofuels

by Almuth Ernsting, Ecologist The biofuels of the future will depend on microbes, writes Almuth Ernsting: algae to produce the biomass, and fungi or bacteria to break cellulose down into useful molecules. Just one problem: wild strains aren’t up to the job. So scientists are trying to genetically engineer supercharged ‘synthetic biology’ variants – which will inevitably enter the environment. What could possibly go wrong? In the UK, the use of genetically engineered (GE) microbes [More]

Jun 042015
 
Creators defend vanilla flavour made using synthetic biology

Evolva say its synbio vanillin is a sustainable alternative to the synthetic variety, but critics say the technology isn’t palatable for the environment by Rich McEachran (Guardian) On its journey from the fields in Madagascar to your ice cream, sponge cake and chocolate, the vanilla plant is subjected to an intense process: it’s cured, dried and sometimes even oxidised. Given the lengthy nature of vanilla production – it can take several weeks to go from [More]

Apr 172015
 
Video: Sacred vs Synthetic: Competing Visions for Life on Earth

Synthetic biology – genetic engineering to create and control life – could radically impact our food systems, our environment, and our relationship with nature. What is “synbio” and how will it undermine traditional knowledge, livelihoods and society? What follows is a conversation about the false promise of synbio and the real solutions right here in our own communities. Featuring: Joanna Macy, PhD, Eco-philosopher Carla Perez, Movement Generation and Healing Clinic Collective Doria Robinson, Urban Tilth Scott [More]

Oct 302014
 

This was originally posted to All Africa. by Glenn Ashton Synthetic food has long been the subject of speculative fiction, from Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” where poor quality artificial food spawned dissent, to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” where food was manufactured from coal and petroleum because fossil fuels had trashed global ecosystems. Today fiction manifests as reality. If genetic modification (GM) of our food were not enough, biologists continue to push the boundaries [More]