Genetic engineering

Is the GMO Lobby in Retreat? – COLIN TODHUNTER

April 17, 2015 // 0 Comments

Author of ‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’ Steven Druker recently talked of how back in the seventies a group of molecular biologists formed part of a scientific elite that sought to allay fears about genetic engineering by putting a positive spin on it. At the same time, critics of this emerging technology were increasingly depicted as being little more than non-scientists who expressed ignorant but well-meaning concerns about science and genetic engineering. This continues today, but the attacks on critics are becoming more vicious. Former British Environment Minister Owen Paterson recently attacked critics of GMOs with a scathing speech that described them as a self-serving, elitist “green blob” that was condemning “billions” to misery. Professor Anthony Trewavas has continued this theme by stating: “Greenpeace notably decides its opinions must prevail regardless of others, so it arrogates to itself the right to tear up and destroy things it doesn’t like. That is absolutely typical of people who are unable to convince others by debate and discussion and in the last century such attitudes, amplified obviously, ended up killing people that others did not like. But the same personality type the authoritarian, ‘do as I tell you’, was at the root of it all. Such groups therefore sit uneasily

New Report Debunks ‘Myth’ That GMOs are Key to Feeding the World

April 6, 2015 // 0 Comments

A new report from the health organization Environmental Working Group released on Tuesday dispels many of the myths that have been propagated by biotechnology companies in defense of GMO’s. Many proponents of GMO’s suggest that the technology will “feed the world” by yielding larger crops, however, the new report is said to debunk these claims, showing that traditional farming methods are “shown to actually increase food supplies and reduce the environmental impact of production.” The report looked at global crop production over the past 20 years, showing just a small improvement of crop yields since the massive investment in biotechnology began. What’s more, is that those crops which did show higher yields were actually not in areas that were using GMO’s, but rather, the increase came in areas that were using traditional farming methods. The report said that, “the dominant source of yield improvements has been traditional crossbreeding, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Seed companies’ investment in improving yields in already high-yielding areas does little to improve food security; it mainly helps line the pockets of seed and chemical companies, large-scale growers and producers of corn ethanol.” Read

Food & Water Watch calls on FDA to declare GMO salmon unsafe to eat

April 6, 2015 // 0 Comments

Food & Water Watch filed two legal petitions today asking the FDA to evaluate AquaBounty’s (ABTX) genetically engineered salmon as a “food additive,” instead of as an animal drug, and to declare GMO salmon unsafe to eat based on the food additive review process. “It couldn’t be more clear to consumers that GMO salmon is a food, not a drug,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “It’s also clear that there are serious food safety concerns with this fish and major scientific gaps in FDA’s animal drug risk assessment. It’s time for FDA to step up and protect the health and welfare of American citizens rather than the economic interests of the biotechnology industry.” Food & Water Watch’s identical petitions filed with the FDA today — one citizen petition and one food additive petition — both argue that FDA’s current animal drug review process is insufficient to protect public health, and that the agency is required by law to review GMO salmon under what should be a more rigorous food additive review process. As a food additive, GMO salmon would be presumed unsafe unless it undergoes comprehensive toxicological studies to ensure that it is safe to

New Report Debunks ‘Myth’ That GMOs are Key to Feeding the World

April 2, 2015 // 0 Comments

The biotechnology industry “myth” that feeding billions of people necessitates genetically engineered agriculture has been debunked by a new report out Tuesday by the nonprofit health organization Environmental Working Group. The report, Feeding the World Without GMOs (pdf), argues that investment in genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has failed to expand global food security. It advocates more traditional methods “shown to actually increase food supplies and reduce the environmental impact of production.” Over the past 20 years, the report notes, global crop yields have only grown by 20 percent—despite the massive investment in biotechnology. On the other hand, it continues, in recent decades “the dominant source of yield improvements has been traditional crossbreeding, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.” As the report states, ” seed companies’ investment in improving yields in already high-yielding areas does little to improve food security; it mainly helps line the pockets of seed and chemical companies, large-scale growers and producers of corn ethanol.” After examining recent research on GMO crop production, the report also found: Genetically modified crops—primarily corn and soybeans—have not substantially contributed to global food security and are primarily used to feed animals and cars, not people. GMO crops in the

Feeding the World – Without GMOs

April 2, 2015 // 0 Comments

‘The fact is, there are strategies that take advantage of what we already know about using resources more efficiently that have the proven potential to double food supplies while at the same time reducing agriculture’s burden on the environment.’ (Image:naturalsociety.com) EWG released a new analysis on Tuesday  debunking the myth that genetically engineered crops (often called GMOs) will be crucial to “feeding the world” as the population soars. My report takes a hard look at recent research and concludes that so far, GE crops have done nothing to improve global food security – and there’s little reason to think that they will any time soon. The chief causes of global hunger today are poverty and small farmers’ lack of access to basic resources such as fertilizers and roads to market. So why do Big Ag and biotech companies keep insisting that the solution to meeting the demand for food is investment in their genetically engineered seeds? The fact is, there are strategies that take advantage of what we already know about using resources more efficiently that have the proven potential to double food supplies while at the same time reducing agriculture’s burden on the environment. Read

Bad GMO Labeling Bill Expected Soon

March 25, 2015 // 0 Comments

A new bill to let food producers decide whether to label GMOs could prevent states from passing mandatory labeling laws. It’s expected to be introduced in the next few weeks—so we need to dissuade potential co-sponsors now! Action Alert! [1] At the behest of the Monsantos and Cargills of the world, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is expected to reintroduce his Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act in the next week or two. If passed, it would nullify the efforts of ten states that are currently considering bills to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. A bill to do the same thing was introduced in 2014. If the language is the same as before, this bill would give the FDA full authority to label GMOs,and the agency favors a voluntary approach [2]. With a federal framework in place, states would be precluded from setting up their own labeling standards. The rationale offered by Rep. Pompeo for the bill is that it would avoid a “patchwork quilt of [state] food labeling requirements” across the country that would make it difficult for companies to operate. But if this is the sole reason, then why not introduce a mandatory label on the federal level so there

New GMO Wine Makes Promises Of No More Hangovers, But At What Cost?

March 25, 2015 // 0 Comments

Scientists at the University of Illinois have engineered a genetically modified yeast to enhance fermentation and eliminate byproducts that cause hangovers. The question is, how will altering natural yeast in fermentation processes affect the chemical constituents in wine once metabolized? Food scientists have been looking to incorporate additives consisting of a series of chelation compounds to wine to prevent it from looking, smelling and tasting funky after oxidation. The problem is, many of them are toxic to living cells. A new method of modifying yeast may bypass additives altogether. “Fermented foods–such as beer, wine, and bread–are made with polyploid strains of yeast, which means they contain multiple copies of genes in the genome. Until now, it’s been very difficult to do genetic engineering in polyploid strains because if you altered a gene in one copy of the genome, an unaltered copy would correct the one that had been changed,” said Yong-Su Jin, a U of I associate professor of microbial genomics and principal investigator in the Energy Biosciences Institute. Recently scientists have developed a “genome knife” that cuts across multiple copies of a target gene in the genome. Jin’s group has now used this enzyme, RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease, to do precise metabolic

GMO Labeling Will Not Increase Food Prices

March 24, 2015 // 0 Comments

Tomorrow morning, the House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the impact of GMO labeling on food prices. Several witnesses will raise their hands and give sworn testimony that a simple disclosure on the back of a package that food made with genetically modified ingredients will raise food prices. All of them will be wrong. Here’s the truth: changing labels has no impact on the price of food. Food companies change their labels all the time to highlight innovations or make new claims. Remember when General Mills changed the Cheerios box to share the good news that its iconic cereal was GMO-free? Did the price change? No. Here’s another dose of reality:  Shoppers do not read everything on the box, can or bottle. As my colleague Mike Lavender recently noted, shoppers tend to look for certain attributes – like calories or the presence of fiber – and disregard the rest.  So while some consumers will look for the GMO disclosure, many more will not. Read

93 Percent of the World’s Seeds Have Been Lost in the Last 80 Years

March 20, 2015 // 0 Comments

Seeds represent the foundation of life. We depend on them for food, for medicine and for our very survival. In many ways, you can trace the underpinnings of any given culture through the heritage of their crops and seeds. It wasn’t long ago when seeds were mostly the concern of farmers who, as the Worldwatch Institute put it, “were the seed producers and the guardians of societies’ crop heritage.” But this is no longer the case. Once considered to be the property of all, like water or even air, seeds have become largely privatized, such that only a handful of companies now control the global food supply. Agriculture has been around for 10,000 years, but the privatization of seeds has only occurred very recently. In that short time, seed diversity has been decimated, farmers have been put out of business due to rising seed costs… and the pesticide companies [2] that control most seeds today have flourished. According to Worldwatch: “…by the early 1900s, the U.S. and Canadian governments began promoting the development of large export-oriented agriculture industries based on only a few crops and livestock species. To maximize uniformity and yields, seed breeding moved off the farm and into centralized public research

52 House Democrats tell Obama the chief cause of decline of monarch butterflies is GMO crops

March 18, 2015 // 0 Comments

52 Democrat Members of the US Congress have written to President Obama telling him that the chief cause of the 90% decline in monarch butterfly populations is GM herbicide-tolerant crops. Glyphosate herbicides sprayed on the GM crops have wiped out the monarchs’ food, milkweed. The letter says, “With the advent of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered crops, the use of herbicides like glyphosate has increased from less than 20 million pounds per year in 1992 to over 250 million pounds per year in 2011. “As a result, researchers now estimate that more than half of milkweed has been wiped out in the Midwestern Farm Belt since 1999, and more than 98% of milkweed has been wiped out from corn and soybean areas in Iowa due to the widespread overuse of glyphosate.” Read
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