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Monthly Archives: November 2018

UN puts brakes on Gene Drives

United Nations Hits the Brakes on Gene Drives

Friends of the Earth International and ETC Group

Landmark Convention on Biological Diversity decision calls on governments to conduct strict risk assessments and seek indigenous and localpeoples’ consent ahead of potential release of ‘exterminator technology.

29 November 2018, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt: Today, the UN has made a significant global decision on how to govern a high-risk, new genetic engineering technology – gene drives[1].

This important decision puts controls on gene drives using simple common sense principles: Don’t mess with someone else’s environment, territories and rights without their consent,’ explains Jim Thomas, Co-Executive Director of the ETC Group. ‘Gene drives are currently being pursued by powerful military and agribusiness interests and a few wealthy individuals. This UN decision puts the power back in the hands of local communities, in particular Indigenous Peoples, to step on the brakes on this exterminator technology’.

The Convention on Biological Diversity decision (see Box) also requires that, before an environmental gene drive release, a thorough risk assessment is carried out. With most countries lacking a regulatory system for the technology, it requires that new safety measures are put in place to prevent potential adverse effects. The decision acknowledges that more studies and research on impacts of gene drives are needed to develop guidelines to assess gene drive organisms before they are considered for release[2].

‘In Africa we are all potentially affected, and we do not want to be lab rats for this exterminator technology,’ notes Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje of Friends of the Earth Africa, and chair of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa. ‘Farmers have already marched in the streets of Burkina Faso to protest genetically engineered mosquitoes and we will march again if they ignore this UN decision. We are giving notice now that potentially affected West African communities have not given their consent or approval to this risky technology’.

The agreement to seek and obtain consent may immediately impact the most high-profile (and well-funded) gene drive project, by researchers at London’s Imperial College who aim to release genetically engineered mosquitoes in Burkina Faso as a step towards future gene drive mosquito releases. Contrary to Target Malaria’s claims, people living in the villages targeted for potential release have not been consulted, nor given consent.

This decision follows a campaign by hundreds of organizations, along with concerns expressed by several governments represented at the UN, who called for a moratorium on the environmental release of gene drives[3].

The globally-agreed decision requires that governments must seek the approval of ‘potentially affected indigenous peoples and local communities’ prior to considering any release of gene drives, including experimental releases. Given that gene drives are designed to spread through a species and across geographic regions – a novel feature of this form of genetic engineering – any environmental release could potentially affect communities far beyond the single release site and it will now be necessary to seek wider consent. This puts an important halt to gene drive releases moving forward. The UN decision justifies controls on gene drive releases because of their potential impact on the ‘traditional knowledge, innovation, practices, livelihood and use of land and water’ of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Guy Kastler from La Via Campesina, a global movement that represents over 200 million peasants from 182 organizations in 81 countries, said: ‘The prospect of this technology brings unprecedented risks that we can’t accept. The UN should have decided a clear moratorium on gene drives. La Via Campesina calls on peasants of the world to oppose in every country the implementation of this technology, which can potentially exterminate our crops or animals and other elements of biodiversity essential to our productions and livelihood’.

Expert contacts:

Monsanto manipulated science for Health Canada.



Équiterre calls for withdrawal of glyphosate’s approval in Canada
and an independent review

Montreal, November 9, 2018 ─ Health and environmental safety groups have conducted a preliminary review of the “Monsanto Papers” and uncovered evidence that calls into question the re-registration of glyphosate for another 15 years in Canada. The study findings show that agrochemical giant Monsanto (now Bayer) manipulated public research in an effort to downplay the cancer risk of its controversial pesticide and that these fraudulent studies were used in the re-evaluation of glyphosate in Canada.

The groups submitted this evidence in a letter sent to the federal Health Minister, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, on October 29. Équiterre is requesting the cancellation of glyphosate’s re-registration in Canada and calling for the creation of an independent review panel to investigate the decision.

It should be noted that, in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization, released an assessment declaring that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”


“A decision was made based on biased science, thereby compromising the risk assessment that led to the regulatory agency’s decision to re-register glyphosate. This constitutes grounds for cancelling the decision to renew the approval of glyphosate in Canada,” declared Sidney Ribaux, executive director of Équiterre. “Under Canadian law governing pesticide use, the Health Minister has the discretion to establish a special review panel in such cases and to suspend a re-registration until a final decision is made based on this review,” explained Mr. Ribaux. “These revelations are just the tip of the iceberg and our investigation is continuing in Canada, but it is ultimately up to the federal Health Minister to investigate in order to prove the independence and integrity of the scientific facts used in the re-evaluation of glyphosate in Canada,” he added.


In August 2018, a California jury found that a citizen’s repeated occupational exposure to glyphosate contributed to his development of cancer, in the case known as Johnson v. Monsanto Company. This trial, which led to the release of the “Monsanto Papers,” is one of thousands currently making their way through U.S. courts.

During the preliminary hearing, a number of Monsanto’s documents and internal communications (emails, text messages, reports, studies, memos, etc.) were made public. Evidence emerged from these documents that Monsanto had ghostwritten scientific studies and launched a major public relations campaign aimed at defending the reputation of its glyphosate-based pesticides and downplaying the cancer risk.

Research by Ecojustice shows that Health Canada relied on several of these fraudulent studies in its decision to re-register glyphosate in Canada in April 2017. This decision had already been challenged via a notice of objection filed pursuant to the Pest Control Products Act by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Environmental Defence, Équiterre, the David Suzuki Foundation and Prevent Cancer Now.


Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in Canada. It is used for weed control in agriculture, mainly on crops such as canola, corn, and soybeans that have been genetically modified to resist glyphosate, and is also sprayed before the harvesting of wheat, oats, barley and several pulses.

To access the petition launched by Équiterre calling for an independent review panel on glyphosate, visit:

Consult the Media Backgrounder : Health Canada’s ghyphosate re-evaluation & the Monsanto Papers

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For more information and to arrange an interview:

Courtney Mullins, Senior Communications Officer, Équiterre
514 293-2370 |

Glyphosate detected in cotton hygiene products.

85% of Tampons Contain Monsanto’s ‘Cancer Causing’ Glyphosate

Glyphosate, a widely popular herbicide that has been linked to cancer by the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm, was detected in 85 percent of cotton hygiene products tested in a preliminary study from researchers at the University of La Plata in Argentina.

According to Revolution News, the samples—which included gauze, swabs, wipes and feminine care products such as tampons and sanitary pads—were purchased from local supermarkets and pharmacies in the La Plata area.

The findings were presented last week at the third national congress of Doctors of Fumigated Towns in Buenos Aires.

“Eighty-five percent of all samples tested positive for glyphosate and 62 percent for AMPA, which is the environmental metabolite, but in the case of cotton and sterile cotton gauze the figure was 100 percent,” Dr. Damian Marino, the study’s head researcher, told the Télam news agency (via An English translation of the Télam report can be read here.

“In terms of concentrations, what we saw is that in raw cotton AMPA dominates (39 parts per billion, or PPB, and 13 PPB of glyphosate), while the gauze is absent of AMPA, but contained glyphosate at 17 PPB,” said Dr. Marino.

Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, president of the congress, said (via that the result of this research is “very serious when you use cotton or gauze to heal wounds or for personal hygiene uses, thinking they are sterilized products, and the results show that they are contaminated with a probably carcinogenic substance.

“Most of the cotton production in the country is GM [genetically modified] cotton that is resistant to glyphosate. It is sprayed when the bud is open and the glyphosate is condensed and goes straight into the product.”

Glyphosate is the key ingredient in biotech giant Monsanto’s Roundup, the most popular weedkiller in the U.S. “Roundup Ready” cotton, soy and corn crops have been genetically modified to withstand application of the herbicide.

In fact, farmers sprayed 2.6 billion pounds of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide on U.S. agricultural land between 1992 and 2012, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that adoption of genetically modified-varieties, including those with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance or stacked traits, accounted for 94 percent of the nation’s cotton acreage.

The graph below from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates an upward trend on the country’s adoption of genetically modified soybean, corn and cotton.

Monsanto maintains the safety of their product, citing its approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which “classified the carcinogenicity potential of glyphosate as Category E: ‘evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans.'”

Monsanto is also demanding a retraction of the World Health Organization’s classification of glyphosate as a possible carcinogen.

This is not the first time that the chemical makeup of feminine care products has been put under the lens. A 2013 report by Women’s Voices for the Earth detailed how the feminine care industry sells products containing unregulated and potentially harmful chemicals, including preservatives, pesticides, fragrances and dyes.

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