About the author Guido Long

Give Crispr a chance update

Give Crispr a chance update

As you may remember, on March 5th, Science for Democracy held the Give Crispr a chance event. The Belgian Food Safety Agency confiscated the product and said they would take action.

The Belgian Food Safety Agency fined Science for Democracy, and coordinators Marco Perduca and Marco Cappato replied.

Now the Belgian Food Safety Agency replied, confirming the fine (you can read their letter below). They basically repeat the same arguments, and accuse Science for Democracy of preventing the testing of the rice, whereas that is what they were asked to do!

In order to prevent such situations in the future, what we can do now is sign the European Citizens’ Initiative Grow Scientific Progress – if citizens make their voice heard the Institutions will listen!

 

Below you can find the text of the letter:

Messrs,

I confirm receipt of your letter of July 25th, 2019, containing your defence elements following the administrative fine of 500€ that I sent you on June 27th, 2019.

I took good note of your arguments.

I would first of all like to draw your attention to the fact that you have yourselves announced, notably on your Facebook page, that you were going to organise an action during which rice modified with the “CRISPR-Cas” method would be eaten.

It is then undeniable that you have presented, on several occasions (before and during the event), the distributed rice as being modified according to the “CRISPR-Cas” method.

The European Court of Justice, in its decision of July 25th, 2018, confirmed that organisms obtained by means of techniques/methods of mutagenesis, such as the CRISPR-Cas method, are genetically modified organisms.

As a consequence, contrary to what you say, the legal status of the “CRISPR-Cas” method is absolutely not “doubtful” in Belgium. Belgium, as a member state of the European Union is subject to the law of the European Union and respects and carries out decisions of the European Court of Justice.

It should be emphasized that the report at the origin of the fine only raised one infraction, namely the opposition to a control and confiscation by agents of AFSCA.

In this regard, the absence of technical analysis of the product, which was by the way made impossible in light of your opposition, has no incidence on the infraction to article 3, paragraph 7 of the royal decree of February 22, 2001, organizing the checks carried out by AFSCA, which remains established.

It seems furthermore appropriate to remind that in light of article 4 paragraph 3 of the February 4th, 2000 law relative to the creation of AFSCA, that AFSCA is responsible for “the control, the examination and the expertise of food products and their raw materials in all stages of the food chain, and this in the interest of public health.”

In addition, in its quality of authority, AFSCA needs to enforce the regulation in force and to contribute to the carrying out of court decisions.

In light of the above, I confirm my letter of June 27th, 2019, and as a consequence invite you to pay the amount of 500€ within 30 days of the reception of this letter.

If this does not happen, I will be forced to transmit your file to the Prosecutor of the King for criminal prosecution in light of article 7, first paragraph of the above-mentioned royal decree of February 22th, 2001.

Please accept, Messrs, my best regards.

The Commissioner for administrative fines

Block on GM rice ‘has cost millions of lives and led to child blindness’

Block on GM rice ‘has cost millions of lives and led to child blindness’

Eco groups and global treaty blamed for delay in supply of vitamin-A enriched Golden Rice

Stifling international regulations have been blamed for delaying the approval of a food that could have helped save millions of lives this century. The claim is made in a new investigation of the controversy surrounding the development of Golden Rice by a team of international scientists.

Golden Rice is a form of normal white rice that has been genetically modified to provide vitamin A to counter blindness and other diseases in children in the developing world. It was developed two decades ago but is still struggling to gain approval in most nations.

“Golden Rice has not been made available to those for whom it was intended in the 20 years since it was created,” states the science writer Ed Regis. “Had it been allowed to grow in these nations, millions of lives would not have been lost to malnutrition, and millions of children would not have gone blind.”

Continue reading the article on The Guardian

Science for the Environment – ICYMI

Science for the Environment – ICYMI

On 18 October, Science for Democracy organised “Science for the Environment: Knowledge and Action” at the House of Europe in The Hague.

The goal of the event was to discuss what science and politics can jointly do for the living environment. Among participants there were academics, European activists and politicians.

You can watch the video of the event below.

 

The programme was as follows:

Welcome speech: Marco Perduca, former Italian Senator, founder and co-chair of Science for Democracy

Keynote speech: Tom van der Lee, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives, GroenLinks

First roundtable: Evidence-based policymaking

moderator: Claudia Basta, researcher, Science for Democracy co-founder

speakers: Katharine Rietig, Assistant Professor in International Politics, Newcastle University

Russel Duncan, Associate Professor in environmental policy, University of Exeter

Edwin Zaccai, Professor in Sustainable Development, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Claudio Radaelli, Professor of Public Policy and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences School of Public Policy, University College London

Second roundtable: Political actions to fight climate change. The bridge between European Citizens Initiatives and Representative Democracy

moderator: Virginia Fiume, coordinator of Eumans

speakers: Matthijs Sienot, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives, D66

Colombe Cahen-Salvador, co-founder and policy lead Volt Europe

Federica Sabbati, vice president European Movement and coordinator of +Europa Bruxelles

Timothée Galvaire, member of the committee of the European Citizens Iniziative Ending the aviation fuel tax exemption in Europe

Martina Helmlinger, member of the committee of the European Citizens Initiative Grow Scientific Progress

Thomas Eitzenberger, member of the committee of the Fridays for Future European Citizens Initiative

Claudia Basta, researcher, Science for Democracy co-founder

Conclusions & ideas for future action: Marco Cappato, former MEP, founder and co-chair of Science for Democracy

 

The event also provided an occasion to discuss the European Citizens’ Initiatives launched by Science for Democracy as well as those it supports. The list of the ECIs can be found here.  Please sign and share widely!

New gene editing tool could fix most harmful DNA mutations

New gene editing tool could fix most harmful DNA mutations

‘Prime editing’ more precise than Crispr-Cas9, but still needs time before use on humans

Scientists have raised fresh hopes for treating people with genetic disorders by inventing a powerful new molecular tool that, in principle, can correct the vast majority of mutations that cause human genetic diseases.

The procedure, named “prime editing”, can mend about 89% of the 75,000 or so harmful mutations known to mangle the human genome and lead to conditions such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anaemia, and a nerve-destroying illness called Tay-Sachs disease.

The landmark work opens the door to a new era of genome editing, but scientists caution that more research is needed before it can be safely used in humans. Beyond proving its safety, another major hurdle is how to deliver the molecular machinery to cells that need it in sufficient amounts to treat a disorder.

Continue reading the article on The Guardian

Scientists and politics?

Scientists and politics?

The lower legislative chamber of the United Kingdom’s Parliament has 650 members, but only one (0.15%) has a science Ph.D. This seems like a surprisingly small number in a mature democracy. About 0.8% of people in the United Kingdom have a science Ph.D., so it appears that science is seriously underrepresented. I suspect it is the same the world over. Why is this, is it right, and what are the consequences?

There is, fortunately, an increasing focus on making governments representative of the diversity of the population they serve in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation. But diversity also needs to embrace different intellectual approaches. The structured thinking and disciplined methodologies of science add to diversity, but these are aspects that can challenge vested interests. The blunt, socially insensitive, scientist speaking truth to power is certainly a caricature, but it is sufficiently real to warrant careful management by governments. There is also often suspicion that scientists operate their own agendas.

Continue reading the article on Science Magazine

Apéro with Marco Cappato in Paris – October 17th

Apéro with Marco Cappato in Paris – October 17th

On October 17th, our Coordinator Marco Cappato will be in Paris to discuss Science for Democracy’s activities, as well as the political initiatives of Eumans. He will be joined by our co-founder Ersilia Vaudo as well as activists and interested parties.

The event will be held at Café La Marchandise, 14 bis Rue D’Alleray, from 7 to 9pm.

The topics treated will include the European Citizens’ Initiatives supported by Science for Democracy, the reproductive health of the global population, the freedom of research on drugs and much more.

More info about the event can be found here.

Symposium at Addis Ababa University – Presentation

Symposium at Addis Ababa University – Presentation

The Associazione Luca Coscioni and Science for Democracy, in collaboration with Università degli Studi di Torino, are organizing the symposium “Advancing knowledge-led development through the right to science in Africa”, which will take place at the School of Law of the Addis Ababa University,  Ethiopia, on 11 November 2019. 

The symposium represents a first thematic meeting in preparation of the 6th World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research, scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa from 27 to 29 February 2020. The Congress is co-sponsored by the Commission of the African Union in the person of Sarah Mbi Enow Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for Science and Technology.

You can find the full programme here: Symposium in Addis Ababa – Full programme

Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, wins 2019 Nobel peace prize

Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, wins 2019 Nobel peace prize

Award recognises efforts for peace, in particular in resolving Eritrea border conflict

The prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, has won the 2019 Nobel peace prize, the Norwegian Nobel committee has announced.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, the committee’s chair, said the award recognised Abiy’s “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”.

Elected in April last year, one of Abiy’s biggest victories was the peace deal, signed in July last year, which ended a nearly 20-year military stalemate with Eritrea following their 1998-2000 border war.

Abiy has also pushed through reforms at home, dramatically changing the atmosphere in what was known as one of the more repressive states in Africa. His public renunciation of past abuses by previous rulers drew a line between his administration and those of his predecessors, as did the appointment of former dissidents to senior roles, as well as large numbers of women.

Continue reading the article on The Guardian

Marijuana May Boost, Rather Than Dull, the Elderly Brain

Marijuana May Boost, Rather Than Dull, the Elderly Brain

Senior mice treated with THC improved on learning and memory tests

Picture the stereotypical pot smoker: young, dazed and confused. Marijuana has long been known for its psychoactive effects, which can include cognitive impairment. But new research published in June in Nature Medicine suggests the drug might affect older users very differently than young ones—at least in mice. Instead of impairing learning and memory, as it does in young people, the drug appears to reverse age-related declines in the cognitive performance of elderly mice.

Researchers led by Andreas Zimmer of the University of Bonn in Germany gave low doses of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, marijuana’s main active ingredient, to young, mature and aged mice. As expected, young mice treated with THC performed slightly worse on behavioral tests of memory and learning. For example, after receiving THC, young mice took longer to learn where a safe platform was hidden in a water maze, and they had a harder time recognizing another mouse to which they had previously been exposed. Without the drug, mature and aged mice performed worse on the tests than young ones did. But after the elderly animals were given THC, their performances improved to the point that they resembled those of young, untreated mice. “The effects were very robust, very profound,” Zimmer says.

Continue reading the article on Scientific American

Kenya endorses ‘case-by-case’ GMO crop approval process

Kenya endorses ‘case-by-case’ GMO crop approval process

In a development that has ignited optimism among companies and organizations that front for the adoption of GM crops, Kenya has revealed intentions to lift the ban to allow the country to accrue the benefits of the technology.

For the East African nation the move toward lifting the ban …. comes hot on the heels of widespread studies that have validated the safety of GM crops and repudiated the Seralini paper, the controversial study by Gilles-Eric Seralini that alleges GMOs cause cancer and which Kenya used in justifying the ban.

Read the full article on Genetic Literacy Project