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
MPs on the Science and Techology Committee have proposed rebranding GM crops and changing to a regulatory system like Canada's, where GM crops that are harmful to the environment are just waived through. Read the Daily Mail.
The European Parliament has voted for a new law to allow the England to press ahead and grow GM crops whilst other countries opt out: read the Daily Mail. The law is likely to be brought into force later in 2015.
Syngenta's GA21 maize (which is tolerant to the weedkiller glyphosate, brandname RoundUp) is the only remaining GM crop in the commercial pipeline that would be suitable for growing in England.
- 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.
The Brazilian Association of Public Health (ABRASCO) has objected to proposed commercial releases of GM mosquitoes in Brazil (which await approval from the health authority ANVISA).
Researchers in Panama have warned that releasing Oxitec's GM mosquitoes risks increasing numbers of another mosquito species which transmits dengue and chikungunya fevers. Read the paper and article in Time.
The first vaccine against dengue is expected to be available in mid-2015.
- Genes and Marketing
The Daily Mail reports that gene test company 23andMe is encouraging parents to test their children's genes, against ethical advice.
- 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 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.
- GM fish
GM salmon company AquaBounty has been fined for breaches of environmental regulations in Panama. Read the GeneWatch UK press release.
- A DNA database in the NHS?
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.
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. A new phase in the controversial "care.data" plan has been announced, with GPs in four areas now piloting the scheme.
A new data protection law supported by the European Parliament would prevent heath data being shared for "research" (including commercial data-mining) without people's consent. But it has yet to gain the support of the Council, which includes the UK Government and is opposed by many internet companies who are lobbying against it. Read GeneWatch UK's response to the Ministry of Justice's consultation on EU powers in this area.
Until the legal 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 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
To oppose patents being granted in Europe on plants such as tomatoes, broccoli and melons, sign the Avaaz petition.
- 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.