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]

Feb 262016
 
Not cheap and not plentiful: Hyped-up synthetic biology claims take another blow as malaria drug production plant shuts down

by Almuth Ernsting Synthetic biology is being heavily promoted and funded as a way to produce large quantities of cheap industrial products, including biofuels. But so far affordable, large-scale manufacture with synbio organisms has proven elusive. Synbio start-up companies that set out to produce high volumes of low-cost biofuels have switched to low volumes of expensive chemicals, cosmetics and food additives instead. Many are still struggling to stay afloat. Sanofi’s synthetic artemisinin, an anti-malaria drug, [More]

Feb 182016
 
Speak up for the regulation of new GM techniques!

The European Commission is about to decide whether or not a set of new genetic engineering techniques should be regulated as GM. Let them know why they should and why it matters to you. We’re supporting GM Freeze’s action to write to the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, to let him know that European citizens are concerned and want to see the ‘New Plant Breeding Techniques‘ (NBTs) properly regulated. You can participate in [More]

Feb 172016
 
'Rogue scientists' could exploit gene editing technology - or are they already?

An article in The Guardian (copied below) describes how a senior geneticist and a bioethicist is in agreement with a US security chief that gene-editing presents a serious risk to national security, equivalent to North Korea’s WMDs. Whilst the focus is on accidentally (or deliberately) releasing viruses, or the inevitability of “designer babies”, the researchers and intelligence staff interviewed in the article agree that the unregulated nature of the industry currently, and the fact that [More]