In 2014, the French government introduced a controversial bill aimed at banning “gene tourism” which allows parents to import their children to live in France with no parental consent.
In 2017, the same government, under pressure from the EU, introduced legislation banning any foreign exchange transactions between companies and individuals which involved the use of gene banks.
The new measures were eventually revoked.
The new law also required foreign companies to identify themselves on their website and sign a document stating that the company does not share genetic information with foreign entities, or “transmit any information concerning the use or control of DNA or any genetic information to a third party”.
It was the most restrictive anti-gene law in Europe, with no exemptions for foreign companies and no provision for people to opt out.
In the end, it was only the first law to be repealed, and there are signs that it may yet be reinstated.
On the flip side, a law aimed at combating illegal gene tourism, known as the “Geneo Law”, has been adopted in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.
But while the measures are still being debated in France, the Dutch and Swiss governments are moving forward with their own laws.
In France, it has been claimed that the Geneo Law will have a chilling effect on genetic research, and that it could lead to a wave of gene transfers between countries.
According to the report, a lack of transparency around gene banks has led to the use in the past of highly unethical practices.
In the US, for example, companies are allowed to donate DNA samples without a human donor’s consent, and to sell DNA samples to researchers in exchange for money.
However, the authors point out that gene banks do not have the same financial backing as large medical companies, and it is impossible to prove if a company will comply with the new rules.
And while the US has passed laws to clamp down on the use and abuse of gene-based research, the UK and Australia have also introduced similar legislation.
According a report by the BBC, the European Union has recently made it clear that it is not interested in imposing similar laws in its member states, and has said it would “not tolerate” companies using gene banks for commercial purposes.
A number of countries in Europe have introduced anti-GMO legislation.
For example, Belgium introduced its own legislation in 2016, and Denmark passed a similar law in 2018.
According the BBC’s report, it is also claimed that EU countries have already taken action to address the growing problem of gene bank usage.
In April 2017, a court in Brussels ruled that a British company called Oxitec Ltd had been using gene bank data to develop a cancer drug.
The court said that Oxitecs company had breached EU regulations by selling its DNA data to other companies without permission.
Oxitec’s CEO, Dr Daniel Sperry, told the BBC that the EU’s new legislation had not affected him.
However, Oxitecn is currently appealing the ruling.
And the European Commission has recently warned that EU member states will face “further sanctions” if they do not act to address gene bank abuse.
The EU’s stance has come at a particularly sensitive time for the gene bank industry.
In February 2017, Oxatec and its partner, GeneBank, were accused of fraudulently using customer data for the purpose of selling its own products.
GeneBank denied the allegations and sued the EU in June, alleging that EU rules had been breached.
Genebank said that the European commission’s legal action was “unjustified and unfair”.EU Commissioner Viviane Reding has recently said that European countries are “ready to put an end to this fraud and its consequences”.