Gene-edited Foods are Safe, Japanese Panel Concludes

Japan will allow gene-edited foodstuffs to be sold to consumers without safety evaluations as long as the techniques involved meet certain criteria, if recommendations agreed on by an advisory panel yesterday are adopted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. This would open the door to using CRISPR and other techniques on plants and animals intended for human consumption in the country.

“There is little difference between traditional breeding methods and gene editing in terms of safety,” Hirohito Sone, an endocrinologist at Niigata University who chaired the expert panel, told NHK, Japan’s national public broadcaster.

Now, Japan appears set to follow the U.S. example. The final report, approved yesterday, was not immediately available, but an earlier draft was posted on the ministry website. The report says no safety screening should be required provided the techniques used do not leave foreign genes or parts of genes in the target organism. In light of that objective, the panel concluded it would be reasonable to require information on the editing technique, the genes targeted for modification, and other details from developers or users that would be made public while respecting proprietary information.

The recommendations leave open the possibility of requiring safety evaluations if there are insufficient details on the editing technique. The draft report does not directly tackle the issue of whether such foods should be labeled. The ministry is expected to largely follow the recommendations in finalizing a policy on gene-edited foods later this year.

Consumer groups had voiced opposition to the draft recommendations, which were released for public comment in December 2018. Using the slogan “No need for genetically modified food!” the Consumers Union of Japan joined other groups circulating a petition calling for regulating the cultivation of all gene-edited crops, and safety reviews and labeling of all gene-edited foods.

Read the full article at Science Mag

What are the Pros and Cons of GMO Foods?

A manufacturer creates GMOs by introducing genetic material, or DNA, from a different organism through a process called genetic engineering.

Most currently available GMO foods are plants, such as fruit and vegetables.

All foods from genetically engineered plants on sale in the United States are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They must meet the same safety requirements as traditional foods.

There is some controversy over the benefits and risks of GMO foods. In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of GMO crops, taking into account their potential effects on human health and the environment.

Pros

The reasoning usually involves making crops more resistant to diseases as they grow. Manufacturers also engineer produce to be more nutritious or tolerant of herbicides.

Crop protection is the main rationale behind this type of genetic modification. Plants that are more resistant to diseases spread by insects or viruses result in higher yields for farmers and a more attractive product.

Genetically modification can also increase nutritional value or enhance flavor.

All of these factors contribute to lower costs for the consumer. They can also ensure that more people have access to quality food.

Cons

Because genetically engineering foods is a relatively new practice, little is known about the long-term effects and safety.

There are many purported downsides, but the evidence varies, and the main health issues associated with GMO foods are hotly debated. Research is ongoing.

This section discusses the evidence for a range of drawbacks that people often associate with GMO foods.

Read more at Medical News Today

Opposed to G.M.O.s? How Much Do You Know About Them?

Most scientists agree that genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s, are safe to eat. But a new study suggests that the people who are most extremely opposed to them know the least about them.

Researchers surveyed 501 randomly selected adults, testing their knowledge of G.M.O.s with a series of true/false questions — for example, the cloning of living things produces genetically identical copies (true), or it is not possible to transfer animal genes into plants (false).

The study, in Nature Human Behaviour, also tested how strongly the participants opposed G.M.O.s by measuring on a seven-point scale the desire to regulate them, the willingness to eat them, and the inclination to actively oppose them by participating in protests or donating to anti-G.M.O. organizations.

“This shows that extreme beliefs stem from an overestimation of knowledge,” said the lead author, Philip M. Fernbach, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Colorado. “We have to somehow get people to appreciate that they don’t understand things as well as they think they do.”

The New York Times

Are Genetically Modified Foods(GMOs) Safe?

Recently, in the news media, there have been various reports about the introduction of certain Genetically Modified, GM, crops, and seeds into the country.

The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering.”

It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods. Why are GMOs (including foods, seeds, crops, etc) produced? GM foods are developed – and marketed – because there is some perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer of these foods.

What are the potential dangers of GMOs? According to an April 22, 2000 issue of Awake! Magazine: “Biotechnology has moved at such a dizzying pace that neither the law nor regulating agencies can keep up with it. Research can scarcely begin to prevent unforeseen consequences from arising.

Researchers warn that there are no long-term, large-scale tests to prove the safety of genetically modified food. They point to a number of potential dangers:

Allergic reaction. If a gene producing a protein that causes allergic responses ended up in corn, for instance, people who suffer from food allergies could be exposed to grave danger. Despite the fact that food-regulating agencies require companies to report whether altered food contains any problem proteins, some researchers fear that unknown allergens could slip through the system.

Continue Reading at Vanguard

Are Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) Safe?

Recently, in the news media, there have been various reports about the introduction of certain Genetically Modified, GM, crops, and seeds into the country. Examples of such include: the release of genetically modified cowpeas to farmers in the country; the release of two transgenic cotton hybrid varieties into the Nigerian Seed Market; the granting of permits by the Federal Government for confined field trials on genetically modified maize, rice, cassava, sorghum and cowpea to ascertain ability to resist insect attack; etc.

All these despite growing opposition by a coalition of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, against the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, in the country. GMOs, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO, are organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.

What are the potential dangers of GMOs? According to an April 22, 2000 issue of Awake! Magazine: “Biotechnology has moved at such a dizzying pace that neither the law nor regulating agencies can keep up with it. Research can scarcely begin to prevent unforeseen consequences from arising.

A growing chorus of critics warns of unintended results, ranging from severe economic dislocation for the world’s farmers to environmental destruction and threats to human health. Researchers warn that there are no long-term, large-scale tests to prove the safety of genetically modified food. They point to a number of potential dangers:

Allergic reaction. If a gene producing a protein that causes allergic responses ended up in corn, for instance, people who suffer from food allergies could be exposed to grave danger. Despite the fact that food-regulating agencies require companies to report whether altered food contains any problem proteins, some researchers fear that unknown allergens could slip through the system.

Increased toxicity. Some experts believe that genetic modification may enhance natural plant toxins in unexpected ways. When a gene is switched on, besides having the desired effect, it may also set off the production of natural toxins.

Full article at Vanguard

New Rules Govern How Modified Food Will Be Labeled

As the federal government prepared for a shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture late last week issued new rules regarding how genetically modified foods will now be labeled.

Food safety advocates are blasting the rules, saying they will make it tougher for consumers to know if the food they buy has been genetically modified, and even some major food producers are expressing concerns.

According to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the new National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which will now govern how manufacturers, importers, and retailers brand foods that have been bioengineered, “increases the transparency of our nation’s food system, establishing guidelines for regulated entities on when and how to disclose bioengineered ingredients.

The department said the new standard defines bioengineered foods as “those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature” and is set to go into effect 2020.

But food safety advocates and even some significant producers are crying foul, saying the new standard will confuse consumers and hide food that has been genetically modified from view.

Among the concerns: food that once was commonly known as “genetically modified” will now be labeled with the lesser known term “bioengineered (BE) food.”

According to Commons Dreams: “Highly processed ingredients, many products of new genetic engineering techniques and many types of meat and dairy products will not require disclosure. This law does not cover animal feed; meat, eggs, and dairy from animals fed a GMO diet will not require disclosure.”

Continue Reading at Voice

Letter: The Real Reason To Be Worried About cs

We live in an age where access to knowledge on virtually any topic is at our fingertips. Yet, we are bombarded by misinformation on a daily basis. Modern advancements in scientific research are often sensationalized or disputed, with findings rarely reported to the public with the appropriate contexts and caveats.

The term “GMO food” usually refers to an organism that has been modified in a laboratory setting or has had a direct transfer of genes into its DNA. Unfortunately, these foods are misunderstood. Due to the complexity of genetic research and the speed at which advancements are being made, there is an alarming lack of accessible, comprehensible resources by which to evaluate this topic from a public perspective.

As a result, the general public is directed toward sources masquerading as reliable outlets of scientific research. Media outlets, blog posts or opinion articles are written by seemingly trustworthy individuals often present the results of scientific literature in a way that is easily understood by those without formal education in the sciences but are usually riddled with errors or misinterpretations of scientific findings.

The process of genetically modifying an organism isn’t scary if you understand the science, but that doesn’t mean you should become complacent. You should be worried about GMOs, but for reasons, you may not have considered.

The copyright policies and corporate monopolies surrounding GMO production are worth worrying about. Corporations such as Monsanto have been repeatedly accused of biased research and fraudulent claims surrounding their products. For example, Monsanto has recently been accused of secretly influencing studies conducted by Health Canada — studies that were instrumental in the Government of Canada’s decision to approve the sale of Monsanto’s “safe” weed-killer, Roundup. Recent evidence shows that traces of the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, are found in many food products. If Monsanto secretly guided studies claiming the safety of glyphosate, there is a justifiable cause for concern and an immediate need to re-evaluate these studies.

Full story at Western Gazette

How To Manage Menopause Wth A Plant-Based Diet

“If you’re a healthy adult woman, by the time you’re in your 40s or 50s, you’ve already spent decades learning how to tackle the ups and downs of your menstruation cycle, mastering the fine art of period management.

The bad news is once menopause hits and your fertility game totally changes, you may have to start learning about your body and food-related needs all over again.

Dr Jillian Forer, GP at Bondi Road Women’s Health Centre, tells SBS that the year leading up to your last period (also known as ‘perimenopause’) can be fraught with physical and often confusing changes.

Dr Forer, who has specialised in the area of women’s health for over 30 years, explains that during menopause, the female body slowly produces less oestrogen. This is just one reason why many women will experience menopausal symptoms.

She advises females going ‘through the change’ to eat a plant-based diet or – as a minimum – increase their consumption of plant-based foods. This is because phytoestrogens – naturally occurring plant oestrogens – produce a similar chemical structure to our own body’s oestrogen, and are able to bind to the same receptors as our body’s own oestrogen does.

“Plant-based diets will usually feature a lot of phytoestrogen,” she says. “Traditional Asian-style diets – those that may be eaten in China, Singapore and Japan – are predominately plant-based diets that include a lot of tofu and soy.

Read the full article at SBS

It May Be Carcinogenic, But Thank Goodness It’s Non-GMO

“Perhaps nowhere is that more apropos than the ongoing stampede of marketers to proclaim their products as non-GMO. We now have GMO-free salt, water, and literally thousands of products from foods to household cleaners, none of which contain ingredients derived from GMO crops. But scare sells.

A recent publicity barrage by Smirnoff, includes a slickly produced (and expensive, given the talent costs) TV commercial featuring actors Ted Danson, he of the in-forever-reruns “Cheers” series in which he played the jovial, but somewhat out to lunch bartender, and actress-author Jenna Fischer. They proudly announce that Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka is now made with non-GMO corn.

A press release notes that the commercial uses two “American treasures” to get the word out about No. 21’s new GMO-free status, pointing out, too, that it “has always been gluten-free” (whoop-de-do), and that because there will be no price increase “everyone can enjoy a quality vodka without having to break the bank.”

Continue Reading at Delta FarmPress

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