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
In Brazil, Globo reports that resistant GM maize is now growing in GM soybean fields, causing major problems for farmers.
Read the African Centre for Biosafety's report on how GM maize is being promoted in Africa, despite failing in South Africa, partly due to resistant pests.
Meat and dairy products fed on GM feed are not labelled in the UK, although large quantities of GM feed are imported. Most major supermarkets (except Waitrose) have backtracked on promises not to use imported RoundUp Ready GM soya in animal feed. Actions to write to supermarkets about their policies are on GM Freeze. You can also help GM Freeze spot GM products in the shops.
- GM insects
Oxitec's plan to release GM olive flies in Catalonia, Spain has been shelved following requests for further information from the regulators. Reported in Spanish in La Vanguardia. Read the GeneWatch press release. Oxitec has now stated it will re-apply in a few months' time when it has completed studies of the impacts of the GM flies on other species.
- Genes and Marketing
The BBC reports that Google-funded gene testing company 23andMe has ceased marketing its genetic tests.
Forbes reports that a class action lawsuit has been filed against 23andMe in the Southern District Court of California. The FDA has ordered 23andMe to stop selling online genetic tests in the USA until its claims have been verified.
- A DNA database in the NHS?
The EU-US "safe harbour" agreement, which would allow NHS data and genomes to be handed over to US companies such as Google-funded 23andMe, is being reviewed as a result of the NSA spying revelations. Google and other technology companies have called for governments to restrict security service's uses of data in the cloud, in an effort to restore trust in their plans to data-mine NHS medical records and genomic data. The Government's plan to create a DNA database of the whole population in the NHS by stealth, through public-private partnership with companies like Google, is described in GeneWatch UK's report.
Uploads of medical data to the new "care.data" database have been delayed until next spring. Medconfidential has published information about how to opt out, using a letter you can send to your GP. See also their FAQs.
- 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 response.
- Genes and Health
New clinical trial results show that genetic testing for drug response is of little use in deciding the dose of the blood thinning drug warfarin. Claims that these tests would benefit patients have been used to seek to justify plans to sequence everybody's genomes.
The Wall Street Journal has reported how screening for genetic disorders can cause problems, including anxiety and unnecessary treatment, for patients who have genetic mutations but no symptoms of disease.
- GM fish
Commercial production of AquaBounty's GM salmon eggs has been authorised in Canada. Read the Guardian article. The fish is awaiting approval for import to the US market from the FDA and approval for commercial grow-out of the eggs to adult fish in Panama.
AquaBounty's experimental production facility of genetically modified (GM) salmon in Panama is missing multiple legally required permits and inspections according to an administrative claim filed in Panama by the environmental group Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panama (CIAM). Read the press release.
- 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 Independent has reported concerns by the RSPCA about cloning horses.
Researchers are genetically modifying animals including farm animals, birds, fish and insects. Many of these animals will end up in the food chain unless consumers oppose this. See the action from Compassion in World Farming.
- The UK Police National DNA Database
The Protection of Freedoms Act entered into force on 31st October 2013. The National DNA Database Annual report for 2012/13 reports that over 1.7 million DNA profiles taken from innocent people and from children have been removed from the DNA database and 7,753,000 DNA samples have been destroyed.
A consultation has been issued on statutory powers for the Forensic Regulator: deadline 3rd January.
- International DNA databases
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. Read the article by Associated Press.
- 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.