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

Sugar Companies to Launch GMO Education Campaign

Genetically modified crops such as sugar beets and corn have been a godsend to the farmers who grow them, an Idaho farmer and biotechnology expert told members of the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture July 27.

To try to change consumers’ understanding and perception of GMO crops, the nation’s sugar beet industry is preparing a $4 million online campaign that will launch this fall.

Roundup Ready sugar beets, which are genetically engineered to withstand applications of the glyphosate herbicide, enjoy 100 percent adoption among Amalgamated growers and save them about $22 million per year, he said.

Because the GMO beets allow growers to use fewer herbicides, the plants are disturbed less and they face much less competition from weed pressure, which has translated into higher yields, Grant said.

Since GMO corn was introduced in the 1990s, he said, U.S. corn acres have increased from just under 60 million to 90 million, while acres of wheat, which is not genetically modified, has dropped from about 60 million to 45 million in 2017, which is the lowest acreage since records began in 1919.

Continue Reading at Capital Press

Experts Says: Genetically Modified Crops Need Detailed Evaluation

“The GM crops aim at increased quantity of the crop, but genetic modification affects the nutrients also, which is different from the naturally grown food. Bio-availability of naturally grown food is always higher than GM crops, which have a different nutritive value,” says Dr. Dharini Krishnan, Nutrition Consultant with Heinz Nutrition Foundation.

As stated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), when new crops are developed using conventional methods, the characteristics can change positively or negatively. Main issues discussed were of allergic reaction, gene transfer and outcrossing due to consumption of such food.

“As a case-by-case basis study is needed to assess the GM foods and their safety because different GM crops include different genes inserted in various ways, a definite conclusion cannot be made on its health aspects as toxins can impact people differently,” says Dr. D Janardan, a senior nutritionist.

These factors highlight the need for careful assessment and evaluation of GM foods to find out its effect on health.

Deccan Chronicle

FSSAI Plans Labelling of GM Foods

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is planning a regime of labeling genetically modified (GM) foods, which do not exist in India as of now.

FSSAI, though responsible for testing food standards, is passing the buck on independent testing of the impact of GM foods on human health. Its officials said that the environment ministry should look at it.

As per Section 22 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, FSSAI has the responsibility to regulate GM organisms and products once they are approved by GEAC. FSSAI even submitted a status report before the Supreme Court, which is hearing a case against the commercial cultivation of GM Mustard, and stressed that no regulation is yet framed to regulate GM foods. DNA has reviewed a copy of the status report.

Continue Reading at DNA