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

Genetically Modified crops

With the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, an Environment Ministry body that evaluates genetically modified crops, approving transgenic mustard for environmental release, a key hurdle remains before farmers can cultivate it: Environment Minister Anil Dave’s approval, under a procedure set down by the UPA government.

What is a GM crop?
A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.

Concerns associated
The technology of genetic engineering is an evolving one and there is much, especially on its impact on human health and environment that is yet to be understood properly. The scientific community itself seems uncertain about this.

In fact, globally, there is a clear view that GM crops must not be introduced in centers of origin and diversity. India also has mega biodiversity hotspots like the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats which are rich in biodiversity yet ecologically very sensitive. Hence it will only be prudent for us to be careful before we jump on to the bandwagon of any technology.

Continue Reading at: The Hands India

Tackling hidden hunger: Biofortified Genetically Engineered Foods Increase Iron, Zinc and Vitamin A

Today, most of us do get enough to eat, in terms of calories, but we still may not be getting our essential micronutrients, such as iron and zinc. In other words, our focus has shifted from quantity to quality. This ‘hidden hunger’, a term used to describe dietary micronutrient deficiencies, must be taken care of. The answer, find researchers, is biofortification.

Golden rice is a variety of rice produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesise beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice.

The most common micronutrient deficiencies are iron and zinc, with 2 billion people affected worldwide with anaemia (30% of the world’s population), says the World Health Organization. Vitamin A deficiency is not far behind. This triad, vital to our health, especially for the development of children, women, and other vulnerable sections (seniors or those who have low immunity), is the focus of biofortification research.

The Genetic Literacy Project

How Cargill is addressing GMO concerns, and looking to Asia for growth

American agribusiness Cargill has its sights set on moving up the food chain and focusing on the aquaculture and meat segments, with Asia expected to be a key market.

Since the company spent $1.5 billion acquiring Norwegian salmon-feed manufacturer EWOS in 2015, it has realigned its portfolio to focus on its core food production business, Cargill Chairman and CEO David MacLennan told CNBC’s “Managing Asia.”

“(T)he rate of growth of fish consumption in the world greatly exceeds pork consumption in the world. We see that trend and we’re getting on it,” MacLennan said.

MacLennan expressed interest in the prospects Asia offers, adding that Cargill has made recent investments in the region. Among them are a chocolate facility in Indonesia, feed mills in Vietnam and South Korea, and joint ventures in the chicken business in the Philippines and Indonesia, he said.

As for the controversy surrounding genetically-modified food, Cargill is attempting to satisfy both ends of the spectrum by acknowledging the growing group of people against genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

The company reportedly drew the ire of farmers after it was linked to the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit anti-GMO group. Cargill responded by reaching out to farmer groups to discuss how the company could better acknowledge how it remains in favor or GMOs.

“We don’t believe in attacking GMOs as a technology. It’s a valid and legitimate technology … At the same time, there are some consumers that don’t want it,” MacLennan said.

CNBC

The Future of Food: To GMO or Not To GMO?

An organic diet has never been more in style than it is right now, with millions of consumers willing to shell out extra dollars for organic foods. Most of us have a vague idea that organic is better because it’s more natural and free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides.

But what does “natural” even mean? The line is harder to draw than we may think.

How different is food from GM crops as compared to food from non-GM crops?

Humans have been “genetically modifying” plants and animals for thousands of years. Five hundred years ago, say a farmer noticed some corn was a little sweeter. To replicate that flavor, the farmer might select those seeds for the next crop. That new trait came about by random genetic mutation, and establishing a noticeably sweeter flavor using selective breeding would take years, if not decades.

Some GM foods, like BT crops, are engineered to contain a form of pesticide, which means they don’t need to be sprayed with chemical pesticides. Eating food that produces a pesticide sounds scary, but as the video notes, pesticide doesn’t always mean it is inedible or harmful to humans. Many substances harm insects or animals, but not humans—coffee is one example.

Much of the backlash against GMOs is less about genetic engineering and more about the business practices of the corporations that control our food supply. GMO crops have been a money-maker for herbicide companies—and as crops have been modified to be herbicide-resistant, herbicide use increases. For companies making GMO seeds and associated herbicides, that’s a lot of power over something as critical as how we feed ourselves.

GMOs are part of the larger genetic engineering debate, which is only going to intensify. New techniques are getting easier, cheaper, and more precise by the year. Tech can do damage or be a force for good; the real trick is weighing risk and benefit impartially and making choices that steer us in the right direction.

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