Below are posts from across all issue areas covered by SynBioWatch and collaborating organizations.

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]

May 252016
Mascoma: The biggest misspending of public funds for cellulosic biofuels ever?

This is an investigation of Mascoma Corporation, a start-up biofuels company which may have misspent more public funds intended for building advanced biofuels refineries than any other company in North America. Download the investigation Summary: Mascoma took at least $100m and possibly over $155m in public funding intended for building integrated biorefineries. Their biggest donor was the US Department of Energy (DoE), including the DoE funded BioenergyScience Center. They also received $14.8 million from New [More]

May 052016
U.S. tries to export its biotech deregulatory regime

by Dr. Steve Suppan (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy) A long standing claim by the U.S. government and agribusiness lobby is that U.S. regulations on genetically engineered (GE) crops are science-based while European regulations are not.  For example, an April 8 letter from the American Soybean Association to the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, states that “approval of these events [three GE soy crops] is [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 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]