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
Scotland has announced it will ban the commercial growing of GM crops under a new law which allows EU countries to opt out of growing GM.
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.
- International DNA databases
Kuwait has become the only country in the world to pass a law to put its whole population on a DNA database. Read the press coverage here.
There has been widespread criticism of India's DNA Bill for lack of adequate safeguards to protect privacy and human rights and prevent miscarriages of justice. Take part in the consultation (deadline 20th August) and read the background here. Critics are calling for greater scrutiny by Committee and significant amendments before the Bill is sent to parliament.
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 insects
Defra Chief Scientist Prof Ian Boyd has dismissed concerns about new "gene drive" technology that could be used to genetically engineer insects to try to spread new genetic traits through a wild population. Read the article in the Independent.
The Catalan Government has rejected an application by Oxitec to release GM olive flies in Catalunya (Spain).
In response to critics, Cornell University has stated that trials of Oxitec's GM diamondback moths this summer will be contained. GeneWatch UK and other groups are seeking further information.
El Salvador has become the latest country to question the costs and unknown consequences of releasing Oxitec's GM mosquitoes (La Prensa Grafica article in Spanish). Read GeneWatch UK's briefing summarising concerns about Oxitec's GM mosquitoes. Also available in Spanish.
Read the debate on GM mosquitoes on the New York Times website.
- Genes and Marketing
Readthe BuzzFeed article about an app designed to make discriminatory uses of online DNA profiles from 23andMe.
Read the Daily Mail report on Apple and Facebook collecting users' DNA.
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?
Loopholes in new data protection legislation proposed by the European Council would allow personal health data, including genomes, to be handed to private companies without an individual's consent and stored indefinitely. This conflicts with stronger data protection proposals from the European Parliament and a commitment from the Commission not to weaken safeguards. Read the GeneWatch UK briefing.
Read the Mail article on Government plans to share NHS medical records with Google: the newspaper already revealed how supposedly confidential medical records are being sold to cold callers.
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 was put on hold until after the election, but is set to restart at end June 2015.
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 Home Office has published new guidance for people seeking the early deletion of DNA profiles, fingerprint records and Police National Computer records. An application form is included.
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.
- 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
In France, GM lamb is reported to have entered the human food chain.
MEPs remain concerned about food from the offspring of cloned farm animals entering the food chain.
- 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.