Welcome to GeneWatch UK
GeneWatch UK is a not-for-profit group that monitors developments in genetic technologies from a public interest, human rights, environmental protection and animal welfare perspective. GeneWatch believes people should have a voice in whether or how these technologies are used and campaigns for safeguards for people, animals and the environment. We work on all aspects of genetic technologies - from GM crops and foods to genetic testing of humans.
- GM Crops and Food
The EU has approved more GM crops for import, including the first "next generation" GM crop, resistant to the weedkiller dicamba. Read the GeneWatch UK press release.
Members of the US Congress have written to President Obama, highlighting the harm to Monarch butterflies caused by growing GM RoundUp Ready crops.
Syngenta's RoundUp Ready GA21 maize is the only remaining GM crop in the commercial pipeline for EU cultivation that would be suitable for growing in England. RoundUp Ready crops are controversial for several reasons, including harm to wildlife habitats from blanket spraying with weedkiller and pesticide residues on food.
- GM insects
Read the debate on GM mosquitoes on the New York Times website. In the USA, Food and Water Watch has called on the FDA to stop planned experimental releases of Oxitec's GM mosquitoes in the Florida Keys and Friends of the Earth has launched an online action. Three out of four Key Have residents are reportedly opposed to the trial.
The first vaccine against dengue is expected to be available in mid-2015.
- Genes and Marketing
Read about concerns about the tests in the Times (subscription required).
The Daily Mail reports that 23andMe is encouraging parents to test their children's genes, against ethical advice.
- A DNA database in the NHS?
Read the joint letter opposing EU plans to weaken data protection legislation. Leaked documents show that loopholes negotiated by the European Council would allow personal health data, including genomes, to be handed to private companies without an individual's consent. This conflicts with stronger data protection proposals from the European Parliament and a commitment from the Commission not to weaken safeguards.
Read GeneWatch UK's report on the plan to build a DNA database in the NHS by stealth and share whole DNA sequences (genomes) with companies like Google. The 100,000 Genomes Project is a pilot project for this plan.
As a first step in the plan, NHS England plans to share people's medical records with private companies without people's knowledge or consent. This "care.data" plan is now on hold until after the election.
Until the situation is resolved, Medconfidential has published information about how to opt out, from sharing your medical records using a letter you can send to your GP.
- GM Contamination Register
An on-line database of incidents of GM contamination, illegal releases and adverse agricultural side-effects run by GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace. Read the new journal paper The GM Contamination Register: a review of recorded contamination incidents associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), 1997-2013 and the Greenpeace blog.
- Genes and Health
Listen to GeneWatch's Director on Family Caregivers Unite!.
A major new study shows that chance plays a significant role in who gets cancer.>
As more evidence accumulates, more scientists are questioning claims that genes play a central role in health and behaviour. Read the blog by Arto Annila and Keith Baverstock and visit the BioscienceResource Project.
For a discussion of policy issues around plans to sequence the genomes of whole populations, read the reports of the EU project PACITA on public health genomics here.
- The UK Police National DNA Database
The effectiveness of the National DNA Database has improved following the removal of more than a million innocent people's records, according to data in the new Annual Report. Read the blog on Gizmonaut.
The Biometrics Commissioner has also published his first report.
- International DNA databases
Read the article Forensic DNA databases: Ethical and legal standards: A global review.
GeneWatch UK, the Council for Responsible Genetics and Privacy International are working together on the Forensics Genetics Policy Initiative to develop international standards for DNA databases worldwide. Visit our website.
- GM fish
GM salmon company AquaBounty has been fined for breaches of environmental regulations in Panama. Read the GeneWatch UK press release.
- GM and Cloned Mammals
Synthetic biologist Craig Venter has claimed he will produce lungs in pigs for transplantation into humans. This is an old idea, previously tried with GM pig hearts and known as "xenotransplantation". There were difficulties with rejection of the organs and a major risk of transferring pig viruses to humans, as well as concerns about animal suffering. Read more here.
The UK Government has announced a review of the increasing use of GM animals in research.
- Patents on seeds
The European Patent Office has backed patents on conventional plants, in landmark cases on broccoli and tomatoes.
- New Plant Breeding Techniques
Companies are lobbying for new developments in genetic engineering to fall outside Europe's regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). If they get their way, this could mean that environmental risk assessments are not conducted before releasing these GMOs into the environment and new types of genetically modified foods are not labelled for consumers. Read the open letter from civil society organisations calling for proper regulation.