Scientists Urge New EU Rules On Gene Editing Crops

The European Commission needs to quickly propose new rules for crops created by modern targeted plant breeding techniques such as Crispr –Cas9 genome editing, or face a withering of Europe’s agricultural research base.

The warning comes this week from the German Bioeconomy Council (BEC), a panel of 17 researchers who advise the German government, and is widely echoed by plant researchers around the continent.

The moves follow a surprise ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in July, which said that new products created by Crispr and similar techniques that offer a precision tool for editing a plant’s genetic code, must go through the same time-consuming approval process prescribed under 2001 EU legislation for older genetic modification techniques.

“In its current form, EU genetic engineering legislation cannot do justice to the opportunities and challenges of [Crispr] technologies,” BEC said.

Plant breeders working with Crispr say the technique can speed development of a new generation of hardier, more productive, more nutritious food crops, improving traits such as pest, salinity and drought resistance, or boosting nutritional content.

If the ruling had been different, “Big funders and companies would, of course, have invested a lot in developing new crop varieties. Now, they are unlikely to do it,” said Stefan Jansson, a plant biochemist at Umeå University in Sweden. “European taxpayers will [also] be hesitant to fund research that only will strengthen agriculture in other parts of the world.”

Scientists say making Crispr techniques subject to laws developed for older genetic modification techniques which involve introducing genes from other species, imposes expensive and risky hurdles. Even when crops pass strict regulatory criteria, EU countries can ban them.

Read more at Science Business

Controversy Over Genetically Modified Organisms

It all began in 2004 when Nigeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States government to support genetically modified crops after which a Biosafety Law was enacted in in April 2015. Since then the question has bordered on whether Genetically Modified Foods (GMFs) are good substitutes as claimed by some experts? If the GMFs are indeed a boost to crops, they why all the furor about it with several countries imposing a ban on their production?

In attempting to allay the fears about of GMOs, the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) gave a response in one of its policy briefs, saying that “in real life nothing is absolutely safe but a degree of certainty is assured compared to other conventional breeding procedure.

Experts in the health sector have argued that natural foods are the best for healthy living as GMOs are experimental foods that can lead to health complications for humans later in life. As such, they could create more problems than they tend to solve.

The argument sustaining this project are that the process would lift farmers from subsistence to commercial farming, that it helps to develop a variety of crops that repel insects, and that GMOs are not synthetic. It has also been said that it could help to prevent stunted growth in Nigeria, with the country once recording the highest rate of stunted growths.

The issue of GMOs today is still a very controversial topic in Nigeria. It is worth noting that in March 2015 the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified glyphosate, the key ingredient in herbicides and pesticides, as carcinogenic.

Read more at Leadership

The Protest Against GMO

Recently, a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found that 32% of the 65 tested food products comprised GM materials. These were being sold without any control from health and food regulators.

Numerous persons and organisations — under the banner ‘India For Safe Food’ — met the Karnataka Food Safety Commissioner on Monday demanding the removal of unapproved genetically modified food from the market.

Those in the India for Safe Food had approached the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for action, and receiving little response, they approached the State government’s body on Monday.

Continue Reading at The Hindu

Concerned About GMOs in Your Food?

On the surface, GMOs seem like a change for the good: Genetic modification can help plants resist pests and viruses or grow more quickly. However, since we are essentially combining DNA from different species, there is the potential that the plant will be forever altered. When a species changes, it opens parts of the environment to new competitors, which could have adverse consequences.

Although the FDA approved genetically modified salmon for consumption in 2015, some groups express concern that modified fish could negatively affect other fish populations.

GMO Labeling Gains Steam

The debate surrounding GMOs is not whether they should be legal, but whether they should require labeling. That’s because GMOs are present in a large percentage of the foods we buy at the grocery store.

The argument in favor of labeling genetically modified foods is that consumers have a right to know what they’re eating. 64 countries currently require GMO labeling. The argument against labeling includes increased costs and fear of public backlash over largely unproven risks.

Read more at Earth 911

Infants Health At Risk With Genetically Modified Food

Infant foods, Similac Alimentum and Similac Isomil, which are widely used for children with lactose intolerance, have been found to contain genetically modified foods, according to a study carried out by the Centre for Science and Environment.

Twenty-five per cent of the samples imported from Netherlands and the US were found to be positive. There was no label to indicate they were GM positive.

The study found imported foods like Kellogg’s Froot Loops, American Garden popcorn, Trix Corn Puffs, Mori-Nu-Tofu, Bugles, Karo and Aunt Jemima corn-based syrups were GM positive, as was PromPlus sweet whole kernel corn from Thailand.

Mr Amit Khurana from the food safety team at CSE said, “The risk assessment of GM positive foods has shown that there is toxicity, allergic reaction and change in composition of major and minor nutrients. More work is required to understand its specific impact on human health.”

Deccan Chronicle

Infants Health At Risk With Genetically Modified Food

Infant foods, Similac Alimentum and Similac Isomil, which are widely used for children with lactose intolerance, have been found to contain genetically modified foods, according to a study carried out by the Centre for Science and Environment.

Twenty-five per cent of the samples imported from Netherlands and the US were found to be positive. There was no label to indicate they were GM positive.

Nutritionist Sujatha Stephen of Yashoda Hospitals said, “Infants who are exposed to genetically modified foods are at risk of childhood obesity and early metabolic problems. Children’s immunity is compromised when they are not breast-fed and putting them on substitutes adds to the risk.

The study found imported foods like Kellogg’s Froot Loops, American Garden popcorn, Trix Corn Puffs, Mori-Nu-Tofu, Bugles, Karo and Aunt Jemima corn-based syrups were GM positive, as was PromPlus sweet whole kernel corn from Thailand.

Deccan Chronicle

Ireland To Maintain A ‘GMO-Free Status’

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, has secured Cabinet approval to enable Ireland to prohibit or restrict the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Ireland.

The Government approved for the transposition of Directive 2015/412 of the European Parliament and of the Council of March 11 2015, which will enable Ireland to opt out of cultivation of GMO crops approved for cultivation elsewhere in the EU.

Announcing the Cabinet’s decision today, Minister Naughten said:

“This is a very significant development; I believe it is critically important that Ireland takes whatever steps are necessary to maintain our GMO cultivation-free status, which is a key element of our international reputation as a green, sustainable food producer.”

The maintenance of the country’s ‘GMO-free status’ will take place on a much wider range of policy grounds than had previously been the case.

“Whilst it is my intention to apply the opt-out provision, I propose to keep the matter of Ireland’s GMO cultivation policy under review in consultation with my colleagues in Government and in light of scientific developments in this rapidly-evolving sector,” said the minister.

AgriLand

Avoiding GMO Food Might Be Tougher Than You Think

While there’s currently no evidence that genetically modified organisms harm human health, that isn’t to say there aren’t legitimate reasons to avoid them.

GM experts and proponents also have legitimate concerns that adding a label identifying GMOs gives the impression that there are scientifically proven risks to worry about. Studies on perception of GM food suggests that the public has a baseline aversion, and a label may increase wariness. Labeling advocates, of course, argue that if Americans want to avoid GMOs, they have a right to do so.

“Can people avoid them? The answer is certainly yes. Especially in the last few years there have been more products on the market that are non-GMO or organic,” says Jayson Lusk, an economist at Purdue University who studies the consumer side of GMOs. “Now, those products are more expensive—no one ever said you can avoid them for free. But they can if they’re willing and able to pay, and one way they’ll pay is in the time to find the products.”

Highly processed ingredients like high fructose corn syrup have little to no traceable DNA in them, and so the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which regulates food labels) doesn’t require manufacturers to add a label to indicate those bio engineered foods.

Popular Science

Avoiding GMO Food Might Be Tougher Than You Think

While there’s currently no evidence that genetically modified organisms harm human health, that isn’t to say there aren’t legitimate reasons to avoid them.

GM experts and proponents also have legitimate concerns that adding a label identifying GMOs gives the impression that there are scientifically proven risks to worry about. Studies on perception of GM food suggests that the public has a baseline aversion, and a label may increase wariness. Labeling advocates, of course, argue that if Americans want to avoid GMOs, they have a right to do so.

“Can people avoid them? The answer is certainly yes. Especially in the last few years there have been more products on the market that are non-GMO or organic,” says Jayson Lusk, an economist at Purdue University who studies the consumer side of GMOs. “Now, those products are more expensive—no one ever said you can avoid them for free. But they can if they’re willing and able to pay, and one way they’ll pay is in the time to find the products.”

In contrast, the USDA regulations allow companies to choose between three options: write out the warning (as in “contains a bioengineered food ingredient”), include a BE label, or use a QR code that would link the consumer to a page disclosing all the information.

Read more at Popular Science

Industry Welcomes GM Food Disclosure Standard Proposed Rule

The publication of a proposed rule that would provide consistency in the disclosure of information regarding bioengineered or genetically modified foods was welcomed by representatives of the food industry.

According to Sarasin, FMI’s efforts in this cause include joining with farmers, manufacturers and retailers “to provide accurate, simple and unbiased information to our customers,” with a focus on consumer education through such means as SmartLabel.

Food Ingredients News has reported, however, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t expect to meet the July deadline to create the new rule, with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue admitting that “we’re not as close as I’d like” to doing so. The holdup appears to be due to the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB), which still needs to review the GMO labeling rules.

Read the complete article at progressive Grocer