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.
Please help to support our work by making a donation.
- GM insects
US public interest groups have filed a formal pre-litigation notice with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that they intend to sue the agency for its approval to release millions of genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes into the environment.
Key Haven residents have voted against an experimental release of Oxitec's GM mosquitoes in Florida. The company will now seek another site in Florida and is expected to make a new application to the FDA.
Court documents from the Cayman Islands reveal Oxitec is aware that its GM mosquito releases could lead to an increase in another disease-carrying mosquito species. Read the joint press release.
- Commercial interests
As the major GM companies begin a period of consolidation, concerns have been raised about even greater monopoly control over seeds. See GeneWatch UK's Open Letter to the EU's Competition Commissioner. See also the petition against the merger between Syngenta and the Chinese Government-owned ChemChina.
- Patents on seeds
In a long awaited explanatory statement, the EU Commission has said that plants and animals that are obtained by means of "essentially biological" breeding are non-patentable. Read the press release from No Patents on Seeds.
In contrast, the European Patent Office has previously backed patents on conventional plants, in landmark cases on broccoli and tomatoes.
- New Genetic Engineering Techniques
The US National Academies of Sciences has released a report on gene drives - a new method of genetically engineering whole ecosystems. The report acknowledges some major risks but fails to discuss the commercial interests which are pushing for use of this technology. Read the article in Science.
New developments in genetic engineering raise questions about which crops, trees and animals will be treated as genetically modified (GM) for the purposes of regulation. Sign the "No new GMOs through the back door" petition here.
- GM Crops and Food
Waitrose has moved to source non-GM feed for pork, leading other supermarkets. Large quantities of GM RoundUp Ready soya, which is blanket sprayed with the weedkiller RoundUp, are being imported to Britain for use in animal feed. You can let the supermarkets know what you think using the GM Freeze website.
In the USA, the Environmental Protection Agency has approved the use of the weedkiller dicamba on a new generation of dicamba-tolerant GM crops.
Yoghurt company Danone is also going GM Free.
Read the New York Times article on how Europe has benefited by choosing not to grow GM 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 or Flanders (Belgium): areas of northern European countries which grow maize and have not used the opt out. This crop is awaiting approval by the EU.
- International DNA databases
Kuwait's Emir has called for revision of Kuwait's controversial DNA law, to respect the constitution and protect privacy. Last year, Kuwait became the only country in the world to pass a law to put its whole population and all visitors on a DNA database. However, the law has been widely criticised and has not been implemented. Read the press coverage here.
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.
- A DNA database in the NHS?
Google subsidiary DeepMind has been given access to NHS patient data from millions of Londoners, without patients' knowledge or consent. Read the 2013 GeneWatch UK report about how the Government plans to share NHS medical records and genetic information from every patient with companies like Google.
The new EU Data Protection Regulation has now been adopted by the European Parliament. The new rules will influence the extent to which individuals will be asked for their consent before their genetic information is shared with commercial companies, if the UK continues to implement these rules following its exit from the EU.
The Government's controversial NHS database called "care.data" was scrapped in July 2016: however, alternative proposals will now be developed. Medconfidential has published information about how to opt out from sharing your medical records using a letter you can send to your GP.
- Genes and Marketing
The EU council has begun "trilogue" negotiations with the European Commission and Parliament about new regulations for medical tests, including genetic tests. The regulation is expected to be finalised in 2016.
Read about concerns about the tests in the Times (subscription required).
- 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 journal paper.
- The UK Police National DNA Database
The Biometrics Commissioner has issued his annual report on the retention of DNA profiles on the National DNA Database and follow-up report about police failures to delete and retain the right information.
Read the GeneWatch UK briefing on the automated sharing of DNA profiles across the EU. The UK parliament has agreed to opt in to automated sharing but concerns about potential miscarriages of justice have not all been resolved.
- GM fish
In the USA, the FDA has approved GM salmon for use as food: the first time a GM animal has been allowed into the food chain. The GM salmon eggs will be produced by the company AquaBounty in Canada, shopped to Panama for growing in an on-land facility, and then shipped as dead fish products to the US market, where they are not required to be labelled as GM. Environmentalists are concerned about the impacts on wild salmon if the GM fish escape, including if GM fish eggs are accidentally or deliberately diverted to fish farms elsewhere in the world. The Center for Food Safety has stated it will bring a legal case against the decision.
- GM and Cloned Mammals
The Guardian reports that a UK couple have cloned their dead dog.