May 252016
What is Synthetic Biology? The Comic Book

ETC Group have produced a fantastic comic book that explains the issues around synthetic biology, and its attempts to engineer life. You can download the comic book here for free. The comic accompanies a short film which you can watch here.

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 252016
Latin American scientists warn against risks of new GM techniques

GM Watch: Scientists demand an end to experimentation in genetic manipulation and call on farmers and society to reclaim scientific research Below is an important statement by the Latin American Union of Scientists Concerned with Society and Nature, questioning the safety of new GM techniques like gene editing and demanding the suspension of experimentation in this field. — Open letter on new technologies Latin American Union of Scientists Concerned with Society and Nature– (UCCSNAL) 10 [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]

May 052016
NGOs highlight synthetic biology concerns at CBD side event

Third World Network Biosafety Information Service Kuala Lumpur, 2 May (TWN) – A standing room only side event at a recent United Nations intergovernmental biodiversity meeting highlighted recent developments in synthetic biology and its implications. On Monday 25 April, a panel of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) spoke at the side event for government delegates to the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), meeting in Montreal. The panel featured representatives [More]

May 042016
New "GM 2.0" fact sheet explains the basics on gene-editing and Plant Breeding Techniques

Download the GM 2.0 Fact Sheet Friends of the Earth Australia have produced a great fact sheet that highlights the issues around the current campaign to see new GM techniques treated and regulated in the same way as more conventional GM. It sets out how regulators are currently failing the public on this issue, and details campaign demands, such as a moratorium on the commercialisation of these new techniques, until the regulatory system for 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 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]