GMOs Are an Ally in a Changing Climate

Someone once told me you could survive on just peanut butter sandwiches and oranges. I have no idea if that’s true, but the advice suggested a tasty lunch for a road trip.

It was a freezing, foggy day last December, and I was preparing to drive from my home in Klamath Falls, Oregon, to California’s Central Valley, the great agricultural heartland of a state that produces a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts.

As I spread my peanut butter, I read the packages on my counter. My nine-grain bread promised, vaguely, that it was “made with natural ingredients.” My oranges were “locally grown.”

Read the full story at Wired

GMOs: What they are, are they safe and which foods have them

Glow-in-the-dark mice, silk-producing goats, venomous cabbage — these are all wacky and downright unsettling examples of what can happen when scientists tinker with DNA. They’re also part of the reason that the public and scientific debates about genetically modified organisms — known as GMOs — persist.

Luckily, “Frankenfoods” like the venomous cabbage, aren’t something you’ll likely ever come into contact with. The GMOs that might be on your plate or in your snacks have been evaluated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and they’re perfectly safe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

What are GMOs?

GMO foods have been genetically engineered to alter the DNA of the food source for some specific purpose — a good example is the famed Flavr Savr tomato, which was genetically engineered to inhibit a gene that produces the protein that makes tomatoes ripen and rot. Thus, the Flavr Savr tomato remained firm and bright red for longer than non-GMO tomatoes.

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Why we need mandatory labeling of GMO products

The conversation around genetic engineering and food is undermined by a lack of information that breeds confusion and distrust. Consumers feel misled. Scientists feel misunderstood. Public officials make flailing attempts to navigate the interests of both. Meanwhile, the companies that choose to play both sides take advantage of everyone — quietly adding genetically modified organisms (GMO) or ingredients made from them to some products and non-GMO labels to others.

Afraid of GMOs? Blame non-labeling
Genetically modified organisms are commonplace and are already present in many of the foods we eat — often, though not exclusively, in the form of genetically modified corn, soy, sugar beet, and canola oil. But as ubiquitous as they are, they’re shrouded in mystery. Across most of the United States, foods made with GMO ingredients don’t bear labels attesting to that. They don’t need to mention genetic engineering on the label or elsewhere. As a result, most of us don’t know how often we eat foods containing GMOs or their byproducts.

The consequences of this labeling asymmetry aren’t surprising: People are concerned about the safety of consuming foods that contain GMOs or their byproducts. Questions naturally arise like, “If GMOs are really safe, why do food companies keep hiding them from us?”

That questioning is exacerbated by the fact that obscurity-based questions about GMO safety are often conflated with actual concerns about GMO business practices. Issues like unsafe herbicide use and the ethics of human genetic editing are completely legitimate. But because these issues are often confused with questions about the safety of food made from genetically modified organisms, they make it easy to write off genetic engineering as altogether problematic.

It’s time to label GMOs

You might expect a company that creates GMO-based products would want the issue of labeling to disappear. We don’t. In fact, we support mandatory labeling of all GMO products.
Mandatory labeling is good for consumers because it will help them be fully informed and less confused when they consider buying GMO products. It is also better for the world, which can benefit from increased understanding and use of genetic engineering technology — technology that is already being developed to help us tackle problems like starvation, disease, and climate change.
Mandatory labeling will strip away the mystery. The confusion dominating the conversation will dissipate.

Labeling works only if it’s transparent

Vermont’s labeling law — by all accounts clear and simple in application — was a good start. It was my hope that it would be extended across the United States as part of a 2016 federal law, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (which is part of Public Law 114-214). That federal law — effective this year — mandates disclosure of certain bioengineered foods under a final rule written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Equally worrisome is the rule’s definition of bioengineered (BE) products — its proxy term for GMOs. It is so lax that it allows thousands of products to avoid mandatory labeling even though they are genetically engineered by any popular definition of the term. Here’s an example: If the predominant ingredient in a product is egg, meat, or poultry, that product is excluded from the GMO labeling requirement even if all the remaining ingredients are genetically engineered.

Read the full article at STAT

Tips to be fit: Genetically modified foods: Are they safe?

When is corn not corn? When is a chicken not a chicken? What is a better egg? The answer is when it’s been genetically modified. We have been trying to produce better food forever. Farms modified food when they saved seeds of cream-of-the-crop plants to grow the next season. That’s when we turned small bunches of tiny kernels on tall grass years ago into the big ears of corn on the cob we have today. We picked the best animals of the litter to breed “new-and-improved” animals. We grafted the branch of one orange tree to another orange tree to get a different tasting orange. What we do now is we alter the genetic code of the plant or animal. This alteration can be genetic coding is taken out or added to produce a product that is more desirable.

For a few decades, food manufacturers began to rely on GMOs as a way to improve a plant’s resistance to pest, tolerance to herbicides, making them more apt to survive weather changes and increase crop yield. We can even get bigger eggs, chickens with bigger wings, cows with more milk or animals that grow faster. We can do it but is it safe to eat? Do we know how our bodies will digest the “Genetically Modified Foods” (GMOs)? Will the GMOs cause genetic changes to our bodies?

Food manufacturers insist that GMOs are safe because they have not been proven to cause harm or illness in humans. Are they right? No one knows for sure how safe GMOs are. It could take decades of scientific research to definitely prove GMOs are harmless in humans. Several animal studies suggest health risks such as infertility, immune problems, and impaired insulin regulation. The FDA is responsible to make sure all food is safe to eat. Soybeans enriched with a protein from a Brazil nut wasn’t brought to market, even as animal feed, because tests showed that it might trigger a reaction for people with an allergy to those nuts. Animal viruses may be used in genetic engineering. Will this infect humans or other animals that eat meat produced this way.

Genetically engineered salmon that grows to full size in about half the time it normally takes. The FDA wanted to know if genetically engineered salmon would mix with salmon whose genes haven’t been engineered and how likely they would be to survive and reproduce if they did. To lower the risks, developers have to raise the salmon in secure facilities in Canada and Panama. The tanks cannot connect to any outside body of water. These engineered salmon farms have to have barriers, screens, and nets to prevent fish and eggs from getting out as well as birds and other predators from getting in. The GMO salmon are sterile.

In the produce section, only a few things might be GMOs:

• Edamame

• Papayas from Hawaii

• Summer squash

Read More at The Philadelphia Tribute

Fruits and Vegetable Seeds Market Growing

• Growing health consciousness among consumers also generates massive demand for nutritious food items.
• Other factors supporting market growth include an increase in seed replacement rate and surging adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops.
• The market growth might be hindered by fluctuating climatic conditions and regulations governing the cultivation of GM crops.

Surging demand for healthy food items along with the adoption of modern agricultural practices are key factors driving the growth of the fruits and vegetables seeds market. Other factors supporting the growth of the market include an increase in seed replacement rate and surging adoption of genetically modified crops.

Surging demand for healthy food items along with the adoption of modern agricultural practices are key factors driving the growth of the fruits and vegetables seeds market. Other factors supporting market growth include an increase in seed replacement rate and surging adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops.

The Solanaceae segment has been further segmented into a tomato, eggplant, potato, and others. The Amaryllidaceous segment has been further segmented into an onion, garlic, and others. The Citrus family segment has been further segmented into orange, lime, and others.

Read More at Communal News

What are GMOs in Australia?

What is GMO food? ‘GMO food’ is food that’s been unnaturally genetically modified to express certain traits that make them more beneficial to us as a species. You might think this sounds scary, but GMO foods are much more common and much safer than you might think.

GMO meaning: What is genetically modified food?

Genetically modified organisms⁠—known largely as GMOs—are simply living things that undergo the process of genetic engineering. Oftentimes, when people think about GMOs, they think about plants and crops, but that’s not all it’s limited to. GMOs can extend to small organisms such as bacteria or fungi, or even animals such as goats and pigs.

Most GMOs these days are indeed food, and a lot of them have been appearing on your supermarket shelves for decades. The first genetically modified foods that were commercially available were FLAVR SAVR tomatoes, made available in 1992. These tomatoes were modified to be sturdier and more resistant to bruising while being transported.

What are the pros and cons of genetically modified foods?

Pros

GMO crops yield bigger harvests with more nutritional content while using less water and reducing carbon emissions. GMOs are also cheaper to produce than their natural counterparts. GM foods have been in circulation for more than two decades, and there are thousands of studies affirming their safety for consumption.

Cons

Some GMOs have the potential to introduce different toxins or allergens into foods that might have otherwise been allergen-free. GMOs are not naturally occurring organisms, and there’s a small potential for them to permanently affect our environment.

Misconceptions about GMO wheat

There’s a growing movement of people who think that some species of wheat have been genetically modified, with some even blaming GMO wheat for the rise in celiac and gluten sensitivity. Conspiracies aside, the accepted consensus is that GMO wheat is not sold commercially anywhere in the world.

Better Homes and Gardens

Could GMO Crops Help Solve The Climate Crisis?

Genetically engineered cereals may hold the key to sustainable agriculture

Genetic engineering may be anathema to many card-carrying environmentalists, who typically favor organic farming over other forms of agriculture. But to overcome the threat posed by climate change — while continuing to feed 7.7 billion mouths (and counting) — many scientists say it’s time to fully embrace the three most controversial letters in the food industry: GMO.

Their goal is to radically shrink the carbon footprint of global crop cultivation by doing away with the need for synthetic fertilizers, which account for about 5% of humanity’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Through extensive DNA manipulations, scientists are optimistic they can engineer a self-fertilizing relationship between crop species and root-dwelling microbes, obviating the need for artificial fertilizer.

Plants need nitrogen to make two important building blocks of life: amino acids, which are stitched together to form proteins, and chlorophyll, which traps the sun’s energy to power photosynthesis. For millennia, farmers met their crops’ nitrogen demands either by spreading nutrient-rich manure on their fields or by rotating their crops, alternatively planting legume crops that were plowed under the soil to help fertilize the cereal crops that followed.

The arrival of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and high-yield crop varieties during the Green Revolution of the mid-20th century largely replaced these practices, ushering in a new era of bountiful food production — but at a high environmental cost.

The Organic Path

To wean agriculture off its dependence on synthetic fertilizers, many environmentalists advocate a return to organic farming practices. “We already have the solutions that we need,” says Dana Perls, senior food and technology policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy organization based in Berkeley, California. “The most sustainable, least risky, and healthiest way to provide food for people across the world are using organic, regenerative, and ecological agricultural systems.”

A Scientific Fixation

For some scientists, the ultimate goal is to create self-fertilizing crops that can fix nitrogen themselves — but that’s a tall order. The DNA for the task can be extracted from microbes, but it doesn’t function the same way when spliced into plants. It’s such an extreme cross-species conversion, in fact, that it’s only worked in Baker’s yeast, a single-celled fungus that, while not a bacterium, is also not a plant.

It may be easier to keep nitrogen fixation under the purview of microbes and instead genetically recreate the interaction found in legumes within the roots of cereal crops. No scientist has yet succeeded in making this dream a reality, but researchers around the world are pushing forward on several of the required steps.

Under Control

This kind of “synthetic symbiosis” would obviate the need for synthetic fertilizers, notes Philip Poole, a plant microbiologist at the University of Oxford. It would also have the added bonus of mitigating the concerns around genetically modified plants escaping fields and contaminating other crops, he adds. Since any pollen that blew into a neighboring field would not carry with it the bacteria from its roots, any resulting corn plants would be at a major competitive disadvantage, since they’d be making food for their new root bugs and getting nothing in return. As such, non-modified crops should quickly overtake any intruders.

Read the full article at Dhaka Tribune

Island Voices: Non-GMO Project Has A Dark Side

Most consumers have seen the Non-GMO logos on bread and many other food products while shopping at the grocery store. Today in North America, the Non-GMO Project Verified logo is on more than 50,000 food products.

The first product to hit the market with the logo was in 2010, barely nine years ago. GMOs, known as genetically modified organisms, have attracted fierce criticism since they entered the food chain in 1994.

Genetically engineered crops such as canola, corn, and soy are grown by farmers and enter the food chain.

Since both the United States and Canada have a voluntary labeling regime for genetically modified food ingredients, it was almost impossible for anyone to avoid them.

The only option was to go organic, which is quite often 20 percent to 30 percent more expensive to purchase. Not everyone can afford the added prices.

The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization located in Bellingham, Washington, is essentially the product of a poor risk communication strategy by the biotechnology sector.

Biotechnology companies, such as Bayer and BASF, only have themselves to blame. For years, they sold their products to farmers without much considering the consumers as part of the social-acceptability equation.

And governments in both Canada and the United States have sanctioned the entire charade for almost three decades.

But the Non-GMO Project has its flaws, which are now being exposed by a greater number of organizations, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S.

Reports suggest now that some food companies are beginning to wonder if adding the logo on their packaging is still worth it. The U.S.-based non-profit organization, with revenues of over $2 million, slaps its label on just about any product, including salt, water, even orange juice.

Not only can salt and water not be genetically modified, but many Canadian consumers also are not aware that genetically engineered oranges in the marketplace do not exist.

As a result, the American FDA has recently notified the industry that it intends to crack down on exaggerated absence claims in the food industry. Suggesting, or implying that food products with the Non-GMO Project Verified label is safer and more nutritious is simply misleading and rests on scrawny scientific evidence.

Read the full article at Times Colonist

Are You Scared of GMO Foods?

Scientists can do some amazing things with genes, from saving papayas from extinction to making apples last longer before turning brown, to creating variants of crops that reduce pesticide use. Some of these things may sound too good to be true and I understand if you’re skeptical. How does this work? Is it safe? How do we know it’s safe? What are the side effects? If you’re asking these questions, you’re like many Americans who question the idea of genetically modified organisms.

Genetic modification has come a long way since ancient farmers first tinkered with the genes of the teosinte plant to develop the corn we have today. Yes, you read that correctly: genetic modification has been around since many centuries before we even knew genes existed. Although there are many techniques, they all achieve the same purpose. A genetically modified (GM) organism is an organism that has had its genetic code—elements of its DNA—changed or modified in some way so that it displays a desirable characteristic.

These types of concerns are natural, but understanding the facts behind GMOs (genetically modified organisms) requires a certain level of scientific knowledge that, unfortunately, many Americans lack. In fact, recent studies place America at around the middle of the pack when it comes to an understanding of science—just 24th out of 71 countries. And this lack of knowledge is likely to influence the decisions people make about what to eat.

In fact, knowledge is the best predictor of one’s attitudes about GM foods. Some research has even shown that those who think they know the most about GM foods actually know less and have the most negative beliefs. This means that people who dislike GM foods do so because they don’t know what GM foods are and how they are created.

In fact, knowledge is the best predictor of one’s attitudes about GM foods. Some research has even shown that those who think they know the most about GM foods actually know less and have the most negative beliefs. This means that people who dislike GM foods do so because they don’t know what GM foods are and how they are created.

It’s not really their fault, as the underlying science involves complex questions. How do we know what a certain set of genes does? How would we even go about changing those genes? What are the safeguards and testing procedures involved?

In a recent study, my colleagues and I found that we can change people’s attitudes about GM foods by teaching them the basic science behind it. But we took a different approach than you might expect. First, we avoided any claims that GM foods were safe or unsafe, good or bad. Instead, we focused simply on providing basic scientific information about them in an accessible way and gave people the opportunity to reflect on their beliefs and questions. We asked them to come to their own decisions about the issue and, at the end of the study, people were more positive toward GM foods overall.

Genetic modification is being applied to many types of organisms—mostly crop plants. The goal in developing these crops is often to change some characteristic so that they’re easier to grow, hardier, or able to thrive in places where they normally wouldn’t. For example, some GM crops require less pesticide than unmodified corps or are more resistant to diseases. Some GMOs, such as “golden rice,” modify plants so that they have greater nutritional value.

Read the full article at Scientific American

EU Authorizes 10 Genetically Modified Products

BRUSSELS, July 26 (Xinhua) — The European Commission on Friday authorized nine genetically modified (GM) products for food and feed uses and one as an ornamental cut flower.

Among the authorized are cotton, maize, soybean, oilseed rape and carnation, which the European Union’s executive arm said: “have gone through a comprehensive authorization procedure, including a favorable scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority.”

Genetic modification means that organisms such as plants, animals or microorganisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.

Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.

The World Health Organization says that “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

Xinhuanet.com