GMO Expert Voices Concerns About Engineered Foods

The Ecology Action Centre and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network are hosting an international expert in genetically modified organisms at talks in Halifax, Truro and Charlottetown this week to try to answer that question and others.

Lucy Sharratt, a coordinator with the biotechnology network, said genetically engineered salmon is already available to Canadian consumers, and genetically modified apples and potatoes have been approved in Canada but aren’t yet on the market.

“We’re so excited to have Dr. Steinbrecher come and speak because we want to have a discussion about the potential of the science and how, as a society, we should introduce new technology, and that involves public engagement and it involves good government regulation, and if we have new technologies in front of us, let’s look at them together,” she said.“This is the great thing about Dr. Steinbrecher. It is an examination of the science itself behind the technology, but she is able to describe it so that it’s very accessible.”

If that product is sent to market and it’s not labeled, survey data shows people are likely to buy fewer apples to avoid eating a GMO, she said, and that could have an economic impact on growers everywhere, including the Maritimes.

More of this news at Truro Daily News

Is Uganda ready for GMOs?

The Parliament of Uganda recently passed the National Biosafety Act 2017. The law is intended to provide a legal and regulatory framework for the safe development and application of “biotechnology”, not “Biosafety”, in the country.

The advancement of modern biotechnology has been popularised as a powerful tool in alleviating poverty and enhancing food security. Uganda is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol which mandates parties to ensure an adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from biotechnology.

Over the years, Uganda has been progressively promoting the adoption of genetically modified (GM) varieties. A number of confined field trials have been conducted: for example, genetically modified (GM) bananas are being tested for resistance to banana bacterial wilt, black Sigatoka as well as the biofortifying banana with micronutrients with iron and vitamin A.

Uganda’s population is estimated to approach 40 million by 2020, with an estimated 70% below the age of 30. It is argued, therefore, that applying science, technology, and innovation will solve problems of food shortages, unemployment and wealth for the growing population. Biotechnology has been presented as a genetic quick fix that can solve Uganda’s food insecurity problems.

This poses a number of questions: 1) Can Biotechnology overcome problems of food access, food shortages to farmers in Uganda? 2) Can the National “Biosafety” Act regulate GMOs effectively? Answering these questions requires a focused debate on the potential benefits and risks of applying genetic engineering and genetic modification in Uganda’s agriculture sector.

Investing in GMO seed presents a significant financial risk for many small-scale farmers especially with climate change, volatility of markets, access to markets among others. Farmers will be forced to sell all or part of their harvests to cover input costs related to buying seeds – perpetually.

Secondly, the National Biosafety Act that was passed recently is still lacking with regard to biosafety. It is not about “Biosafety” as is known in scientific structures and processes, but mainly GMOs in agriculture. The bill does not take cognizance of the Precautionary Principle as enshrined in the Cartagena Protocol.

Continue Reading at New Vision

The Double-Edged Sword of GMOs

Most of us have heard of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). What first comes to your mind when you hear this acronym? Many think of fluorescent mice or purple-colored carrots, but GMOs also encompass less dramatic examples: plants and animals that have been genetically engineered for disease tolerance or improved quality.

The 21st century has not been tranquil for humankind. From chronic diseases to impoverishment, many of us have been facing the worst of nature over the last few decades. However, this era has also involved great strides in technology, a weapon that can be used to tackle these problems.

GMOs can be beneficial to human health. You might have heard of Golden Rice, a genetically modified (GM) rice variety. This has a greatly enhanced proportion of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in humans.

GMOs are used for more than just battling malnutrition; there is ongoing research on the large-scale cultivation of transgenic plants for the synthesis of plant-derived pharmaceutical proteins (PDPs). PDPs are thought to be able to treat myriad ailments. For example, a GM potato could contain a protein that treats Hepatitis B.

More of this news at University Observer

Could Genetically Modified Pigs Put Leaner Bacon On The Horizon?

It’s a question on many bacon-lovers’ minds: can the pork product be part of a balanced diet? After all, a mere four slices of the stuff contain roughly 40 percent of recommended daily values of saturated fat and sodium.

A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences announced that 12 “healthy,” low-fat pigs were engineered by the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, NPR’s The Salt reports. Their research was aimed at breeding hardier pigs that would be more economical for farmers to raise, especially during colder weather. The resulting swine have about 24 percent less body fat than usual.

According to NPR, fellow researchers deem the development to be important. “It demonstrates a way that you can improve the welfare of animals at the same as also improving the product from those animals — the meat,” R. Michael Roberts, a professor who edited the paper for the journal, reportedly said.

Genetically-modified (GM) food is a contentious topic. According to Eat Right Ontario, approximately 85 GM foods have hit the market in Canada since 1994. GM salmon is one such food, which was approved for sale in Canada in 2016 with no special labeling required. An August 2017 Angus Reid survey showed that while most Canadians have limited awareness of GMOs, they “still want more transparency,” Global News reported.

Continue Reading at National Post

10 Things You Never Knew About GM Foods

Rebecca Nesbit writes a piece for us upon the release of her new book Is That Fish In Your Tomato?

Only one genetically-modified crop can be legally grown in the EU – a maize variety which is resistant to the caterpillars of the European corn borer moth. It is grown mostly in Spain and Portugal and isn’t grown in the UK.

In Europe, any food containing over 0.9% GM material has to be labeled. GMOs are permitted at low levels because of contamination – GM grain gets accidentally mixed in with non-GM grain. Meat from animals fed GM feed doesn’t need to be labeled.

Extensive studies haven’t found any health problems associated with GM foods. New varieties go through thorough testing as part of their regulatory approval, and safety studies have been performed by university scientists around the world. The World Health Organisation is one of the many organizations to issue a statement saying that there have been no effects of GM crops on human health.

The GM crops currently available have new genes inserted into their DNA. These can be from a different species or can be synthetic sequences made in the lab. New lab techniques are springing up which allow scientists to make much smaller changes to a plant’s DNA. It’s not yet clear which of these will be regulated as genetically modified organisms.

More of this news at Female First

Your Next Drug Could Be A Pill Full Of Genetically Modified Bacteria

The latest approach to making new drugs is genetically modifying members of our own microbial ecosystems.

This summer, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company Synlogic started a clinical trial studying the safety of pills filled with genetically modified Escherichia coli, the MIT Technology Review reports. The US Food and Drug Administration thought these pills were so promising they fast-tracked them from animal to human testing.

In theory, they’d work like probiotics, which are foods or pills that help balance the trillions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract beneficially. Along with this line of thought, we could add custom bacteria strains that provide additional specific benefits.

As your body goes about its business, it rids itself of waste that builds up over time, including ammonia. Normally, we’re able to excrete this chemical in our urine. However, a handful of rare genetic disorders prevent this from happening properly, and the concentration of extra ammonia must be managed through careful dieting.

Read the full article at Quartz Media

Public Still Can’t Swallow Concept Of GM Food

A new study has confirmed what pollsters already knew: the public remains skeptical about genetically modified foods.

About 62 percent of respondents said GM is acceptable for use in human medicine and 68 percent said it’s OK to use the technology to protect human health, such as genetically modified mosquitoes.

“In some ways, I can understand why people may be more cautious about what they’re ingesting on an ongoing basis.”

The Purdue results are similar to polls done in Canada, looking at public perceptions of GM foods:

• A 2012 Farmers Feed Cities survey found that only 41 percent of Canadians think GM foods are safe for consumption.
• An Insights West poll in 2014 found 50 percent of people in Alberta and 56 percent in British Columbia would support a ban on genetically modified foods in Canada.
• A 2013 Consumers’ Association of Canada poll found that 88 percent of Canadians think GMO labeling should be mandatory.

More of this news at The Western Producer

Milk Producers’ Group Goes After ‘Deceptive’ non-GMO Labeling

The National Milk Producers Federation’s “Peel Back the Label” campaign aims to combat “deceptive food labeling” from dairy brands like Dean Foods and Dannon — which have touted Non-GMO Project certification, according to a report in Food Navigator.

The Non-GMO Project claims that retailers carrying products featuring its seal of approval report “the fastest dollar growth trend in their stores this year,” with annual sales exceeding $19.2 billion. So it’s not surprising that food companies turning out dairy-based products want to get on that bandwagon. At the same time, some of these companies say they support conventional farming methods, including the use of GMO feed.

In the Food Navigator article, a Dean Foods spokesman called the new NMPF campaign “disappointing.”

“We encourage consumers and NMPF to enjoy a glass of milk and focus on building up dairy foods, not dragging them down,” Jamaison Schuler said.

DanoneWave CEO Mariano Lozano told Food Navigator that the company was surprised to be criticized for providing choices that consumers want. Soon after Non-GMO Project, Verified products started appearing on shelves, Dannon officials told Food Dive about their reasons for going that route.

Read the full article at Food Dive

STUDY: Even non-GMO Foods Contain Genes?

More than one-third of Americans do not know that foods with no genetically modified ingredients contain genes, according to the new nationally representative Food Literacy and Engagement Poll we recently conducted at Michigan State University. For the record, all foods contain genes, and so do all people.

The full survey revealed that much of the U.S. public remains disengaged or misinformed about food. These findings are problematic because food shapes our lives on a personal level, while consumer choices and agricultural practices set the course for our collective future in a number of ways, from food production impacts to public health.

Informing food discussions

The Food Literacy and Engagement Poll, which we plan to conduct annually, is part of Food@MSU, a new initiative based in Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Food@MSU’s mission is to listen to consumers, promote dialogue and help the public make more informed choices about food.

Meanwhile, the proliferation of online content with conflicting messages makes it hard for Americans to separate valid nutritional information from fads and fraud. Influential multinational corporations push ideas that aren’t always based on science but rather intended to promote their own products.

Continue reading at The Genetic Literacy Project

Trump Administration Sued Over GMO Food Labeling

Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a federal lawsuit Sunday against the Trump administration for its failure to comply with the 2016 federal law on the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food.

Sec. of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are charged with implementing the new labeling rules, and part of that process is a study on “electronic and digital disclosures” (like QR codes) for GE foods, as opposed to on-package text. That study was required to be finished by July 2017, with an opportunity for public participation, but USDA never completed the study or published it for public comment.

The federal GE food law requires USDA to establish federal standards for labeling by July 2018. The withheld study will inform the agency’s ultimate decision, which is why it was required to be completed a year earlier. One of the most controversial aspects of the law is how it will require companies to label GE foods, and whether companies will be able to forgo clear, on-package labeling through the use of QR codes and other digital disclosures.

“Americans deserve nothing less than clear on-package labeling, the way food has always been labeled,” continued Kimbrell. “Allowing companies to hide genetically engineered ingredients behind a website or QR code is discriminatory and unworkable.”

Continue Reading at Ecowatch