From Bio Journal - January 2023

COP15 closes without results

The 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) was held in Montreal, Canada, from December 7 to 19, together with the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol and the 4th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol. The online event in Kunming last year was the first part of COP15, and this has been the second part. The big issue at COP15 was not about biodiversity protection, but about the benefits derived from biological resources between developed and developing countries. The most important theme was about the content of the "Kunming-Montreal Goals" to replace the post-Aichi targets. Of these, the greatest focus among the "4 Goals" and "21 Targets" to be realized by 2030 was on "Target 17: Biotechnology Regulation." In the end, all controversial points were deleted, leaving only "Establish, strengthen capacity for, and implement in all countries biosafety measures as set out in Article 8(g) of the Convention on Biological Diversity and measures for the handling of biotechnology and distribution of its benefits as set out in Article 19 of the Convention." remaining.

During COP 15, the French NGO POLLINIS, citing major threats to pollinating insects, issued a statement by 100 scientists calling for strict regulation of genome editing, RNA interference, and gene-drive technologies based on the precautionary principle.

The debate on synthetic biology also failed to move forward, and even the basic question of whether it should be discussed or not remained inconclusive, and it was just about possible to have discussions pushed on to COP16. Developed countries that promote biotechnology and desire to avoid regulation are moving to procrastinate and ratchet down the synthetic biology debate concerning regulation of genome-editing technology. The background to this appears to be that regulations on GM organisms halted the development of GM crops, livestock and fish, eventually reaching a plateau.

A recent event symbolized the retreat of GM crops. The annual ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications) publication of global GM crop acreage was suspended after 2019. During this period, the area under cultivation did not expand, but rather indicated a decreasing trend.

There was a marked movement at COP15 not to allow regulation of genome-editing technologies and synthetic biology in what could be seen as an attempt to prevent a repeat of what has happened with GM crops. As things stand, there is a fear that the Convention on Biological Diversity itself may lose the reason for its existence.

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) accepts notification of new genome-edited fish lineage

On December 6, MAFF accepted the notification of two new strains of red sea bream and one pufferfish developed by Regional Fish. The new lines are additional lines (red sea bream E361-E90, conventional variety-B224, pufferfish conventional line-4D) to the lines that were originally notified to MAFF (red sea bream E189-E90, pufferfish 4D-4D).

Acceptance of notification for genome-edited tomato as food with functional claim

On November 30, the Consumer Affairs Agency accepted a food notification for functional claims from Pioneer Ecosciences, which sells tomatoes, for genetically modified high-GABA tomatoes. The National Institutes of Biomedical Innovation, Health and Nutrition (NIBIOHN), pointing out that there is no basis for claiming that GABA is good for health, and despite the potential health hazards of an overdose, granted its endorsement to the tomato as a health food.

Cricket meat burger to go on sale soon

Bugmo, a Kyoto-based company promoting edible insect foods, launched a cricket protein bar in November 2021 and began trial sales of a cricket meat "Bugmo Burger" in October the following year, but the company is currently filing a patent application for the insect burger and plans to begin full-scale sales soon.

Kyoto Prefectural University takes action on food tech

Kyoto Prefectural University launched the Future Food Research and Development Center, a venture company, on June 30 this year in collaboration with AGBIOTECH Corporation. The venture will develop short-stem rice for plant factories and edible insect rearing systems, becoming fully operational in 2023.

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