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
GeneWatch UK has called on supermarkets to wake up to the environmental harm caused by genetically modified (GM) animal feed, imported from North and South America. Blanket spraying of Monsanto's RoundUp Ready GM crops with the weedkiller RoundUp has destroyed the habitat of the Monarch butterfly in the United States. Read the story in Food Manufacture.
The USDA has recommended approval of the next generation of GM crops, tolerant to blanket spraying with the weedkiller 2,4-D.
Syngenta's GA21 maize (which is also 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, if plans to opt-in to growing GM crops under new draft EU legislation go ahead.
Read about superweeds and RoundUp Ready crops in the USA.
- GM insects
UK company Oxitec plans to release GM Mediterranean Fruit Flies in fruit orchards in Brazil. Fruit for export is likely to be contaminated with dead GM female maggots (which are genetically programmed to die) and living GM male flies. See the BBC and Daily Mail.
A dengue emergency has been declared in the town in Brazil where GM mosquito experiments are taking place. The researchers have confirmed there has been no reduction in dengue in the experimental areas. Read the English translation of evidence submitted by Brazilian scientists criticising the proposal to allow commercial releases of Oxitec's GM mosquitoes in Brazil.
Experiments in Malaysia have been halted, amid concerns they could make the dengue situation worse. Paraguay has also decided against using Oxitec's GM mosquitoes, according to Ultima Hora (in Spanish).
Experimental releases of Oxitec's GM mosquitoes have begun in Panama. Oxitec's notification for the export of GM mosquito eggs to Panama includes no risk assessment, even though this is a legal requirement.
- 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 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.
- Genes and Health
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.
- Genes and Marketing
China has announced moves to restrict sales of genetic tests
Read the Huffington Post on why the US FDA was right to crack down on Google-funded 23andMe's misleading gene test claims. US gene testing company GeneLink has also been forced to withdraw misleading claims following a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission.
The New York Times reports that different gene testing companies report contradictory results.
- The UK Police National DNA Database
Rapid DNA testing is being trialled by the Home Office: it could speed up solving crimes but might also be misused to test people on the street or at borders without good reason.
The Protection of Freedoms Act entered into force on 31st October 2013. Most innocent people who are arrested will now have their DNA and fingerprint records deleted automatically but some will be retained for three years (or longer for national security reasons).
The Home Office has published the new rules for innocent people applying for early deletion of their DNA and fingerprints from police databases. The Guidance does not cover deletion of Police National Computer (PNC) records which continue to be dealt with under the old Exceptional Cases procedure.
- 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 announced major losses and stated it wants to list on Nasdaq.
More US retailers have announced they will not sell GM salmon if its entry to the US market is approved by the FDA.
Environmental groups have filed a law suit against the production of GM salmon eggs in Canada. If commercial production proceeds, GM salmon eggs will be shipped to Panama for grow out and the fish will be sold on the US market. Regulators in Panama and the USA have yet to approve commercial production and import of the fish.
- HSE Contained Use Regulations Revision
Industry has been lobbying to create a loophole to allow GM micro-organisms, synthetic biology products and GM fish and insects to be released into the environment on an industrial scale under the Contained Use regulations for GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Read GeneWatch UK's submission to Health and Safety Executive (HSE)'s consultation.
- Patents on seeds
To oppose patents being granted in Europe on plants such as tomatoes, broccoli and melons, sign the Avaaz petition.
- GM animals
The Government has announced a review of the increasing use of GM animals in research.
- 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.