Genetic engineering

Manufacturing the Global Food and Agricultural Crisis – COLIN TODHUNTER

May 28, 2015

In 2012, Professsor Seralini of the University of Caen in France led a team that carried out research into the health impacts on rats fed GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The two-year long study concluded that rats fed GMOs experienced serious health problems compared to those fed non GM food. Not long after, a new major peer-reviewed study emerged that threw into question the claim often forwarded by the biotech sector that GMO technology increases production and is beneficial to agriculture. Researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand found that the GM strategy used in North American staple crop production is limiting yields and increasing pesticide use compared to non-GM farming in Western Europe. Led by Professor Jack Heinemann, the study’s findings were published in the June 2013 edition of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. The research analysed data on agricultural productivity in North America and Western Europe over the last 50 years. Heinemann’s team found that the combination of non-GM seed and management practices used by Western Europe is increasing corn yields faster than the use of the GM-led package chosen by the US. The research showed rapeseed (canola) yields increasing faster in Europe without GM than in the GM-led package chosen by Canada. What is more, the study found that Europe is decreasing chemical herbicide and achieving even larger

A microscopic quest to find out what we’re really made of. – Courtney Humphries

May 20, 2015

How many types of cells are there in the human body? Textbooks say a couple of hundred. But the true number is undoubtedly far larger. Piece by piece, a new, more detailed catalogue of cell types is emerging from labs like that of Aviv Regev at the Broad Institute, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which are applying recent advances in single-cell genomics to study individual cells at a speed and scale previously unthinkable. The technology applied at the Broad uses fluidic systems to separate cells on microscopic conveyor belts and then submits them to detailed genetic analysis, at the rate of thousands per day. Scientists expect such technologies to find use in medical applications where small differences between cells have big consequences, including cell-based drug screens, stem-cell research, cancer treatment, and basic studies of how tissues develop. Regev says she has been working with the new methods to classify cells in mouse retinas and human brain tumors, and she is finding cell types never seen before. “We don’t really know what we’re made of,” she says. Other labs are racing to produce their own surveys and improve the underlying technology. Today a team led by Stephen Quake of Stanford University published its

Unmasking The GMO Humanitarian Narrative – Colin Todhunter

May 4, 2015

Genetically modified (GM) crops are going to feed the world. Not only that, supporters of GM technology say it will produce better yields than non-GM crops, increase farmers’ incomes, lead to less chemical inputs, be better suited to climatic changes, is safe for human consumption and will save the lives of millions. Sections of the pro-GMO lobby are modern-day evangelists who denounce, often with a hefty dose of bigoted zeal, anyone who questions their claims and self-proclaimed humanitarian motives. But their claims do not stack up. Even if some of their assertions about GMOs (GM organisms) appear to be credible, they are often based on generalisations, selective data or questionable research and thus convey a distorted picture. The claims made about GMOs resemble a house of cards that rest on some very fraudulent foundations indeed (see ‘Altered Genes and Twisted Truth’ by Steven Druker). The fact that many of the pro-GMO lobby spend a good deal of their time attacking and smearing critics and flagging up the technology’s alleged virtues while ignoring certain important issues says much about their priorities. If they care about farmers so much, indeed if they value food security, choice and democracy so much – as they frequently claim to – why do

Goodall says animals “suffer” from genetically modified foods – Michaela Meaney

April 29, 2015

Animals show adverse effects from genetically modified foods, and consumers should take that as a warning, primatologist Jane Goodall said Tuesday at a National Press Club news conference that called to urge stronger government safeguards for genetically modified organisms. “Animals tell us something,” said Goodall. “If the animals have suffered this way, potentially for us, let’s listen to what they’re telling us. Let’s take heed.” Goodall joined public interest attorney Steven Druker to talk about the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of GMOs — organisms that have been engineered to develop new traits, commonly for the enhancement and growth of crops. Those crops often are fed to animals. Goodall wrote the foreword for Druker’s 2015 book on FDA regulation of GMOs, which alleges a too-cozy relationship with Monsanto MON, -2.29%  and other agribusiness companies. At Tuesday’s news conference, Druker noted that Michael R. Taylor, the FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine is a former Monsanto Co. vice president. Read

Court declares Vermont’s genetically engineered food labeling law constitutional

April 29, 2015

Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) hailed the just-issued federal court decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont affirming the constitutionality of Vermont’s genetically engineered food labeling law, Act 120. The ruling fully denied the preliminary injunction motion brought by the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, Snack Food Association, and other plaintiffs to try and halt the law’s implementation, and granted the State of Vermont’s motion to dismiss on several claims. “This important ruling affirms the constitutionality of genetically engineered food labeling, as well as the rights of Vermonters and U.S. citizens across the country,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and counsel in the case. “Americans are demanding the right to know if their food is produced through genetic engineering, for health, environmental and many other reasons. This decision is a crucial step in protecting those rights.” “What a victory for Vermont consumers,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “From the beginning, we have said that Vermonters have substantial interests in knowing whether their food has been genetically engineered. This ruling brings us one giant step closer to that reality.” Act 120 was signed into law on

World’s first genetically modified human embryo raises ethical concern – by Hannah Brown

April 28, 2015

The genetic modification of humans make many people feel very uncomfortable. Credit: Tatiana Vdb/Manuel/Flickr, CC BY It all started with a rumour. Then just six weeks ago, a warning rang out in the scientific journal Nature, expressing “grave concerns regarding the ethical and safety implications” of creating the world’s first genetically-modified human embryo. Then last week, a Chinese group from Sun Yat-sen University, reported that they had, in fact, done it: they had created the first genetically-modified human embryo. They reported that, in a world first, they had taken “human tripronuclear embryos”, and altered mutant DNA that causes the human disease β-thalassemia, which is life-threatening and affects 100,000 people worldwide. But one person’s stern warning is another’s delight. The promise of technologies like this – to cure diseases like cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s, or even to remove the BRCA mutation, which dramatically increases a woman’s risk of dying from breast or ovarian cancer – have been exciting biologists for years. Cut and paste So what exactly did the Chinese researchers do? And why has it caused such an uproar? Read

Is genetically engineered food a fraud? – Simon Worrall

April 27, 2015

* Claims author: It’s the biggest fraud in the history of science and not the answer to feeding the world An estimated 85 percent of all food consumed in the United States now contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—from the cereal you feed your children to the milk you put in your coffee to the sweet corn you chomp on in summer. But because there’s no labeling requirement, we don’t know which foods have GMOs and which don’t. We also have no hard facts about the possible health effects. In his new book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived The Public, public interest attorney Steve Druker takes the science community, the food industry, and the FDA to task for what he claims are their lax and irresponsible policies. Talking from a parking lot in Michigan during his book tour, he explains how the debate about GMOs has undermined science and democracy, why the two Bills, Clinton and Gates, have got it wrong, and what advice he would give an African farmer trying to feed his starving child. In the subtitle of your book, you name three ways

Farmers turn to GMO-free crops to boost income – Christopher Doering

April 21, 2015

When Justin Dammann enters his southwestern Iowa cornfield this month, the 35-year-old farmer will sow something these 2,400 acres have not seen in more than a decade — plants grown without genetically modified seeds. The corn, which will head to a processor 20 miles down the road this fall, will likely make its way into tortilla shells, corn chips and other consumable products made by companies taking advantage of growing consumer demand for food without biotech ingredients. For Dammann and other Midwest farmers, the burgeoning interest in non-GMO foods has increased how much they get paid to grow crops in fields once populated exclusively with genetically modified corns and soybeans. The revenue hike is a welcome benefit at a time when lower commodity prices are pushing farm income down to what’s expected to be the lowest level in six years. “We never really thought we would go back to (non-GMO). But the consumer, in my opinion, has sent a clear message that a certain percentage of our customers are willing to pay more for the non-GMO lines,” Dammann said. “This non-GMO thing has seemed to take hold and gain a lot of traction.” Consumers, particularly on the West and East

Is the GMO Lobby in Retreat? – COLIN TODHUNTER

April 17, 2015

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

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
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