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It is not enough for transgenic companies to have a monopoly on commercial seeds and invade our fields and food. In addition, they want less and less regulations and incidentally to deceive people with other names for their new biotechnologies, trying to separate them from the generalized rejection of transgenics. They are also aggressively advancing in the attempt to manipulate not only crops, but also wild species, to do genetic engineering of ecosystems, which could cause the disappearance of entire species.
All these strategic guidelines of the transnational biotechnology industry are reflected in the new regulations that the Brazilian Biosafety Commission (CNTBio) approved on January 15, 2018. With it, the CNTBio opened the doors for products derived from what they call innovative enhancement technologies. precision, can be considered non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) and reach the field and consumers without going through biosecurity evaluation or labeling.
The strategy that products of new biotechnologies are not considered GMOs to evade biosafety laws is not new. In the United States, it has already been applied in some products, such as mushrooms manipulated with CRISPR-Cas9 biotechnology. In Europe, the discussion has been going on for a couple of years and has not yet been resolved, although everything indicates that the European Union will not allow them to evade the regulation, on the contrary, it could result in changes to the laws to make more demanding risk assessments, due to the new threats that these present.
On the contrary, Argentina introduced in 2015 a very general and lax regulation, which allows exempting the products of several new biotechnologies from biosafety evaluation. (MagazineBiodiversity87, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/ybhxu4g9).
What is new and very worrying with the resolution of the CNTBio in Brazil that also explicitly creates a channel to approve the field release of genetic drivers, which he calls genetic redirection techniques, but to leave no doubts he also writes it in English:gene drives. It is the first country in the world to establish channels to release this highly dangerous type of GMO into the environment.
It is a technology designed to deceive the natural laws of heredity, causing all the progeny of plants, insects and other animals that are manipulated with gene drives (gene drives), they forcibly pass these modified genes on to all of their progeny.
If the manipulation is to produce, for example, only males (which they are already trying with insects, mice and plants), the population - or even the species - could quickly become extinct (https://tinyurl.com/y8clpzpa).
Once released into the environment, living beings that have been manipulated with this technology will not respect borders, so the countries bordering Brazil should worry about this threat right away.
All the new biotechnologies that are included in these Brazilian and Argentine regulations are forms of genetic engineering that involve new risks and uncertainties. The fact that genes from other species have or have not been inserted - as is the case with transgenics already in the field - or that the insertion is in a more exact place, as the industry claims, does not mean that they do not involve risks, even greater than those that exist.
Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, from the German Federation of Scientists, explains that they are still artificial changes to the genomes of organisms, about whose functions there are large gaps in knowledge. Off-target gene insertion or silencing can occur - activating or deactivating important functions in organisms - that will produce unpredictable impacts on organisms, the environment and consumption. (https://tinyurl.com/ybwcvq52)
As in Argentina, this decision in Brazil, which involves so many risks, was taken as a simple administrative decision by a technical commission - in which the transgenic industry has a heavy influence - without consulting the farmers, consumers and many others who may be affected, or go through legislative bodies.
Faced with this situation, the largest rural movements and organizations in Brazil, gathered in the National Articulation of Rural, Water and Forest Workers and Peoples - a broad coordination that includes the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) and the National Articulation Agroecology among 19 other national organizations - issued a public letter of complaint and protest, in which they reject the CNTBio decision and warn that Brazil would become the first country in the world to consider the release of genetic drivers, a technology that has not been allowed in no other country, and that the United Nations even considers a biological weapon. (Brasil de Fato, 2/6/18, https://tinyurl.com/y8wcuxen).
They also point out that gene drives, a technology funded mainly by the United States Army and the Gates Foundation, (https://tinyurl.com/yahkzdnz), will mainly favor agribusiness transnationals that seek with this technology to restore the susceptibility of Invasive herbs that have become resistant to their pesticides, to increase their sales and, incidentally, the devastating impacts of these on health, land and water. Or they could seek to extinguish what companies consider pests the fields, which would have very negative impacts on ecosystems and peasant and agroecological farming systems. This measure in Brazil is just the beginning of what could continue in other countries. It is urgent to prepare and, as in Brazil, to resist these new traps of the transgenic industries.
Silvia Ribeiro. Researcher of the ETC Group, published in La Jornada, Mexico