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.
- 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.
- 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
The European Commission looks set to approve the import of GM soybeans that can be sprayed with a combination of RoundUp (glyphosate) and other weedkillers such as dicamba or isoxaflutole, despite admitting that it cannot assess the health effects of multiple herbicide residues. Read the Testbiotech and GeneWatch UK press release.
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 by using the contacts on the GM Freeze website.
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.
- GM insects
US public health, food safety and environmental groups have objected to the FDA's draft approval of proposed releases of Oxitec's GM mosquitoes in Florida.
Read GeneWatch UK's response to the FDA consultation.
Oxitec's GM mosquitoes are debated in this week's Lancet (correspondence on "alternative vector control methods"). Oxitec plans further trials of GM mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands.The company previously released GM mosquitoes there in 2009-2010.
Read GeneWatch UK's briefing on proposed releases of GM diamondback moths in New York State.
- A DNA database in the NHS?
New Scientist has revealed that Google has been given access to NHS patient data, 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.
- International DNA databases
The Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy has called for greater public and policy debate as DNA databases expand around the world, in his latest report to the UN.
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.
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
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.