Thursday, June 23, 2011
Should synthetic biology be policed?
By John Farrell
June 23 2011
What scares many people about the emerging field of synthetic biology is the lack of official safeguards. The Do-It-Yourself movement is taking off, with blogs and user groups of grad students and high school students publicly sharing information about how to home-brew microbes. The International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) draws hundreds of experiments made from basic biology toolkits from undergraduates all over the world. Students from Slovenia were the grand prize winners in 2010 for designing a DNA scaffold that accelerates the synthesis of particular proteins.
These kit-level experiments are harmless, hobbies pursued as much for educational purposes as for ingenuity. But in the wrong hands, some have warned, more than lives could be threatened.
As I mentioned in the last post, Craig Venter’s celebrated paper prompted President Obama to ask Amy Gutmann, President of University of Pennsylvania and the chair of his Bioethics Commission, to look at synthetic biology and assess what the Federal Government should do about this rapidly growing field of biotechnology.
Gutmann called three meetings between July and November of last year to consult with specialists on the question. Venter spoke at the first meeting, along with Drew Endy of Stanford, Harvard’s George Church and MIT’s Kristala Jones Prather, among many other leading resesarchers.
Church, who has made a career out of perfecting the speed with which genes can be sequenced, was emphatic about the need for the Federal government to regulate and monitor the new field. “We need to – it is not sufficient to have a set of rules and guidelines, if there isn’t testing, if there isn’t surveillance,” he told the Commission in July. “You can do licensing, as we do driver’s license, but you have to do surveillance to make sure people are obeying the laws.”
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Unlabelled clone meat allowed on shop shelves as food safety proposals are ripped up
By Sean Poulter
May 26, 2011
Food from the offspring of cloned animals, including meat and milk, has been approved for sale without labels.
The Food Standards Agency yesterday tore up proposals that would have required it to go through a safety assessment.
It comes despite research showing eight in ten shoppers oppose the cloning of farm livestock.
Unlabelled food produced using the offspring of clones, such as dairy products, meat pies and ready meals, can now go on sale without any threat of legal action.
But animal welfare groups say the cloning technique is cruel, with a high number of miscarriages, deformities and gigantism.
And consumer groups say labels are essential to give shoppers choice.
The FSA’s decision is in line with Government policy, which supports clone farming and clone food without labels.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
We won’t sell clone meat say supermarkets after minister sabotages ‘Frankenfoods’ label plans
By Sean Poulter
March 31, 2011
Supermarkets have pledged to keep meat and milk from clone farm animals and their offspring off their shelves.
The move came after it emerged that the British Government and the European Commission have sabotaged efforts to regulate and label the controversial ‘Frankenfoods’.
The Daily Mail revealed yesterday how EU negotiations designed to draw up a policing regime for clone farming and food had collapsed.
The result is that meat and milk from the offspring of clones could go on to the shelves without any labels in a matter of months.
The Government, led by Caroline Spelman – the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – was in the vanguard of efforts to kill off any attempts at regulation.
Ministers claim that food from clones and their offspring is the same as that from other farm animals and therefore requires no special regulation or labelling.
However, this is completely at odds with public opinion in Britain and Europe, where consumers want to decide for themselves whether to eat this food.
Many also object on ethical and animal welfare grounds.
Yesterday the UK’s major supermarkets said that – regardless of the view of Mrs Spelman and the Government – they will not stock food from clones or their offspring.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
EU talks over cloned meat collapse
By Alistair Driver
March 29, 2011 |
The EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers had one final chance to reach agreement on updating the Novel Foods Regulation yesterday night (Monday, March 28). The talks failed at around 7am this morning, leaving the status quo in place, where food from cloned animals is subject to a pre-market authorisation.
Parliament wanted a ban on food from cloned animals and their descendents and highlighted negative attitudes towards the technology highlighted in a recent Eurobarometer survey.
MEPs said they were prepared to seek a compromise but said, as a bare minimum there should be a commitment to label all food products from cloned offspring.
The Council and the European Commission agreed that there should be a ban on cloning and that food from these animals should be banned. But they did not want a ban on food derived from the offspring of cloned animals, arguing that such a ban would be impossible to implement.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Cloned food could be sold without warning labels as Eurocrats force change in the law
By Sean Poulter
March 4, 2010
Milk and meat from cloned animals’ offspring could soon be on sale without any warning labels, shoppers were warned last night.
The European Commission is threatening to force through the change – with the backing of the British Government.
The alarm was raised by the European consumer group, BEUC, whose director general, Monique Goyens, said: ‘Consumers must be able to know and choose what they eat.’
Currently, it is illegal to sell meat or milk from clone animals or their offspring in the UK. Anyone who wishes to do so would have to apply for permission from the Food Standards Agency. The European Commission takes the view that food from the offspring of clones should be allowed into the high street without any labels or the need for approval.
The Commission opposes the sale of food from clones themselves, however the UK government has no objection.