Home > News > In the News > Open Letter to the EU Commission: Please support a global moratorium on the environmental release of gene drive organisms

Brussels, 30 / 06 / 2020 

Please support a global moratorium on the environmental release of gene drive organisms 

Dear Commissioner Sinkevičius, Dear Commissioner Kyriakides,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, write to you to request that the EU Commission fully supports the EU Parliament’s call for a global moratorium on the release of Gene Drive Organisms (GDOs). This is in view of the EU preparation for the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP10). In its resolution of January 2020, the Parliament requests, “the Commission and the Member States to call for a global moratorium at the COP15 on releases of gene drive organisms into nature, including field trials …«i.

Gene Drive technology aims at the eradication of populations and even entire species by means of genetic engineeringii. Currently, reversal of its effects is not possible. The environmental release of Gene Drive Organisms poses serious and novel threats to biodiversity and the environment at an unprecedented scale and depth, since any Gene Drive Organism carries a serious risk of uncontrollable spread of genetically modified genes and genetic mechanisms into wild and domesticated populations. While the new Corona virus is a very different phenomenon, it stands as a stark warning for the need of precaution regarding the potential effects of the uncontrollable spread  of a new organism.

Any environmental release of Gene Drive Organisms would violate the EU’s GMO directive 2001/18/EC, which states: “Member States shall, in accordance with the precautionary principle, ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to avoid adverse effects on human health and the environment which might arise from the deliberate release or the placing on the market of GMOs.”iii

The technology is incompatible with the Commission’s proposed EU strategy on biodiversity protection according to which the EU supports a worldwide commitment for «no human-induced extinction of species».iv

Furthermore, a report v published by the environmental protection and nature conservation agencies of Austria, Germany, Italy, Finland, Lithuania, Malta and Switzerland highlights possible negative effects of Gene Drive Organisms for the environment and nature, including irreversible changes to food chains and ecosystems, and losses of biodiversity.

Also, the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), based on the findings of their reportvi, recommends that, in light of the unpredictabilities, the lack of knowledge and the potentially severe negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, any releases (including experimental) of Gene Drive Organisms into the environment be placed on hold to allow proper investigation until there is sufficient knowledge and understanding.

Given the EU’s GMO Directive, the EU’s policy and strategy on biodiversity, the opinion of environmental agencies of EU Member States, scientific evidence and of course the Parliament’s resolution, we urge you to take into account the need for a global moratorium on any environmental release of Gene Drive Organisms. 

The undersigned organizations are of course ready to provide any additional information that you or your staff might need.

Yours sincerely,

On behalf of the undersigning organizations Jorgo Riss

Greenpeace EU 

Jagoda Munic

Friends of the Earth Europe 

Benedikt Härlin

Save Our Seeds / Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft 

Attached: 

Briefing: Why a global Gene Drive moratorium is necessary. By Save Our Seeds

Executive Summary of “Gene Drives: A report on their science, applications, social aspects, ethics and regulations.” Published by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Critical Scientists Switzerland (CSS) and the Federation of German Scientists (VDW) in 2019.

Signatories

Compassion in World Farming EU
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) EU
Ecoropa EU
European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) EU
European Professional Beekeepers Association (EPBA) EU
Friends of the Earth Europe EU
Greenpeace EU EU
IFOAM EU EU
Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe) EU
Slow Food Europe EU
WeMoveEU EU
Bioforum Vlaanderen Belgium
CNCD 11.11.11 Belgium
FIAN Belgium Belgium
IEW – Inter Environnement Wallonie Belgium
Natagora Belgium
Nature et Progrès Belgium Belgium
UNAB – Union Nationale des Agrobiologistes Belges Belgium
Vitale Rassen Belgium
Za Zemiata – Friends of the Earth Bulgaria Bulgaria
Eco Hvar Croatia
NOAH – Friends of the Earth Denmark Denmark
Apiservices – Beekeeping Development France
CRIIGEN – Comité de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur le Génie Génétique France
France Nature Environnement France
GIET – Groupe International d’Etudes Transdisciplinaires France
OGM Dangers France
Pollinis France
AbL – Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft Germany
Agrarkoordination Germany
Aktion Agrar Germany
Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Umweltbeauftragten der Gliedkirchen in der evangelischen Kirche Deutschland  

Germany

bfub – Bundesverband der Umweltberatung Germany
Bioland Germany
BNN – Bundesverband Naturkost Naturwaren Germany
Bodensee Stiftung Germany
BUND – Friends of the Earth Germany Germany
Dachverband Kulturpflanzen- und Nutztiervielfalt Germany
DNR – Deutscher Naturschutzring Germany
EuroNatur Germany
FDCL – Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Chile Lateinamerika e.V. Germany
FIAN Deutschland Germany
Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung Germany
GeN – Gen ethisches Netzwerk Germany
Germanwatch Germany
GRÜNE LIGA Bundesverband Germany
Heinrich Böll Stiftung Germany
Katholische Landvolkbewegung Deutschland Germany
Naturgarten Germany
Naturland Germany
oekom.e.V. Germany
Oxfam Deutschland Germany
Pro Wildlife Germany
Schutzstation Wattenmeer Germany
Schweisfurth Stiftung Germany
Stiftung Gekko Germany
Stiftung Grassroots Germany
Umweltinstitut München Germany
VEN – Verein für die Erhaltung der Nutzpflanzenvielfalt e.V. Germany
Vereinigung der Freizeitreiter und -fahrer in Deutschland e.V. (VFD) Germany
von Weizsäcker, Dr. Ernst Ulrich Germany
Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft in der GLS Treuhand Germany
IG Saatgut Germany
Testbiotech Germany
Apicultural Research Educational Center Greece
Instytut Spraw Obywatelskich / The Civil Affairs Institute Poland
Jordens Vänner – Friends of the Earth Sweden Sweden
Latinamerikagrupperna Sweden
The Swallows India Bangladesh Sweden
ETC Group International
Global Nature Fund International
Navdanya International International
Four Paws International
APIMONDIA Scientific Commission ‘Bee Health’ International
APIMONDIA Scientific Commission ‘Beekeeping for Rural Development’ International
APIMONDIA Scientific Commision ‘Beekeeping Technology and Quality‘ International
APIMONDIA Regional Commission for ‘Americas‘ International
EcoNexus Science
Logos Environmental, Janet Cotter Science

i In its resolution of January 2020, (2019/2824(RSP)) the European Parliament considers it important to «improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity” (para. C) and requests “the Commission and the Member States to call for a global moratorium at the COP15 on releases of gene drive organisms into nature, including field trials, in order to prevent these new technologies from being released prematurely and to uphold the precautionary principle, which is enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as well as the CBD” (para.13). Online: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2020-0015_EN.html

ii Esvelt, K., et al. (2014). Concerning RNA-guided gene drives for the alteration of wild populations. Elife 17(3). // Rode, N., et al. (2019). Population management using gene drive: molecular design, models of spread dynamics and assessment of ecological risks. Conservation Genetics 20: 671-690. // National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine (2016). Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing  Science, Navigating Uncertainty and Aligning Research with Public Values. Washington DC, The National Academies Press

iii Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms, Article 4, (1)

iv Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Committee of the Regions. EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Brussels, 20.5.2020 COM(2020)380. Online: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:a3c806a6-9ab3-11ea-9d2d-01aa75ed71a1.0001.02/DOC_1&format=PDF

v Dolezel, M. et al. (2019): Gene Drive Organisms. Implications for the Environment and Nature Conservation. Umweltbundesamt, Vienna.

vi CSS, ENSSER, VDW (2019). Gene Drives. A report on their science, applications, social aspects, ethics and regulations. Online: https://genedrives.ch/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Gene-Drives-Book-WEB.pdf

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