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.
- 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.
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
Oxitec has published a new paper about its GM diamondback moths. Read the BBC report.
Read the press release and open letter about proposed releases of Oxitec's GM moths in New York State. In response, Cornell has stated that trials 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 new briefing summarising concerns about releases of GM mosquitoes produced by the UK company Oxitec. Also available in Spanish.
Read the debate on GM mosquitoes on the New York Times website. In the USA, Food and Water Watch has called on the FDA to stop planned experimental releases of Oxitec's GM mosquitoes in the Florida Keys and Friends of the Earth has launched an online action. Three out of four Key Haven residents are reportedly opposed to the trial.
The first vaccine against dengue is expected to be available in mid-2015.
- 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.
- GM Crops and Food
The EU has approved more GM crops for import, including the first "next generation" GM crop, resistant to the weedkiller dicamba. Read the GeneWatch UK press release.
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.
- 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.