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

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

The Protest Against GMO

Recently, a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found that 32% of the 65 tested food products comprised GM materials. These were being sold without any control from health and food regulators.

Numerous persons and organisations — under the banner ‘India For Safe Food’ — met the Karnataka Food Safety Commissioner on Monday demanding the removal of unapproved genetically modified food from the market.

Those in the India for Safe Food had approached the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for action, and receiving little response, they approached the State government’s body on Monday.

Continue Reading at The Hindu

Ireland To Maintain A ‘GMO-Free Status’

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, has secured Cabinet approval to enable Ireland to prohibit or restrict the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Ireland.

The Government approved for the transposition of Directive 2015/412 of the European Parliament and of the Council of March 11 2015, which will enable Ireland to opt out of cultivation of GMO crops approved for cultivation elsewhere in the EU.

Announcing the Cabinet’s decision today, Minister Naughten said:

“This is a very significant development; I believe it is critically important that Ireland takes whatever steps are necessary to maintain our GMO cultivation-free status, which is a key element of our international reputation as a green, sustainable food producer.”

The maintenance of the country’s ‘GMO-free status’ will take place on a much wider range of policy grounds than had previously been the case.

“Whilst it is my intention to apply the opt-out provision, I propose to keep the matter of Ireland’s GMO cultivation policy under review in consultation with my colleagues in Government and in light of scientific developments in this rapidly-evolving sector,” said the minister.

AgriLand

Avoiding GMO Food Might Be Tougher Than You Think

While there’s currently no evidence that genetically modified organisms harm human health, that isn’t to say there aren’t legitimate reasons to avoid them.

GM experts and proponents also have legitimate concerns that adding a label identifying GMOs gives the impression that there are scientifically proven risks to worry about. Studies on perception of GM food suggests that the public has a baseline aversion, and a label may increase wariness. Labeling advocates, of course, argue that if Americans want to avoid GMOs, they have a right to do so.

“Can people avoid them? The answer is certainly yes. Especially in the last few years there have been more products on the market that are non-GMO or organic,” says Jayson Lusk, an economist at Purdue University who studies the consumer side of GMOs. “Now, those products are more expensive—no one ever said you can avoid them for free. But they can if they’re willing and able to pay, and one way they’ll pay is in the time to find the products.”

Highly processed ingredients like high fructose corn syrup have little to no traceable DNA in them, and so the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which regulates food labels) doesn’t require manufacturers to add a label to indicate those bio engineered foods.

Popular Science

Avoiding GMO Food Might Be Tougher Than You Think

While there’s currently no evidence that genetically modified organisms harm human health, that isn’t to say there aren’t legitimate reasons to avoid them.

GM experts and proponents also have legitimate concerns that adding a label identifying GMOs gives the impression that there are scientifically proven risks to worry about. Studies on perception of GM food suggests that the public has a baseline aversion, and a label may increase wariness. Labeling advocates, of course, argue that if Americans want to avoid GMOs, they have a right to do so.

“Can people avoid them? The answer is certainly yes. Especially in the last few years there have been more products on the market that are non-GMO or organic,” says Jayson Lusk, an economist at Purdue University who studies the consumer side of GMOs. “Now, those products are more expensive—no one ever said you can avoid them for free. But they can if they’re willing and able to pay, and one way they’ll pay is in the time to find the products.”

In contrast, the USDA regulations allow companies to choose between three options: write out the warning (as in “contains a bioengineered food ingredient”), include a BE label, or use a QR code that would link the consumer to a page disclosing all the information.

Read more at Popular Science

Which Crops Are Genetically Modified?

While we may not yet know exactly how genetically modified foods affect our health, many of us have taken the preemptive steps to avoid them in our diet.

The good news is that, despite all the press on GMOs, there aren’t a lot of crops that are actually genetically modified. The bad news is that, for people who eat a lot of processed food, those few crops are in a huge percentage of food products (as opposed to whole food).

Unfortunately, the U.S. government elected not to legally obligate manufacturers to label our foods when they have GMOs in them.

Well, when others won’t take responsibility for what they are doing, when the authorities drop the ball, the onus falls on us to avoid becoming the victims of their misdeeds. We know what foods to avoid:

Corn
Soy
Sugar
Canola and Cotton
Papayas

More of this news at One Green Planet

Better Diet Data Via Tooth-Mounted Sensors

In First World countries, where famine is unheard of, people are instead eating themselves to death.

Oftentimes, diet studies rely on self-reported surveys and journals that are hostage to the whims of each participant. People forget. People feel self-conscious about their food choices and may fudge (pun intended) the data. However, a new sensor that fits on a person’s tooth could cut out this unpredictable variable—human nature— altogether.

Researchers from Tufts University School of Engineering designed a tiny sensor that, when stuck to a tooth, can wirelessly relay precise information about glucose, alcohol and salt intake. When the device comes in contact with salt, for example, its electrical properties shift, causing its other components to absorb and transmit different radiofrequency wavelengths unique to each chemical or nutrient. That information is then beamed to a mobile device for recording.

“In theory we can modify the bioresponsive layer in these sensors to target other chemicals – we are really limited only by our creativity,” says Fiorenzo Omenetto, an author on the study, which was published recently in the journal Advanced Materials. If you can put it in your mouth, it appears Omenetto and his team can measure it.

Discover

Debate Over GM Foods Continues

According to Dick, there thousands acres of land being farmed within 25 miles of Fort Morgan. The need for food in Colorado is rising higher as the population grows, but the understanding of what that takes to produce enough food for all, according to Dick, is shockingly low.

“A lot of people don’t realize what it takes to get the food on their plate. They just think it comes from the grocery store,” said Dick.

“The bottom line is that there is no particular reason to believe that currently available GMO crops pose any health risk, or that they are different with regard to their safety and nutrition from their conventional analogues. There is also nothing about the current processes used to generate GMOs that would theoretically pose a unique health risk,” state a report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

According to studies, it takes about one acre to feed a person for a year. The study also states that the average American consumes about 2,000 pounds of food annually. Dick explained that crops are not only used as a direct food product to consumers, but also to feed livestock for meat production and even, in the case of corn, used to produce ethanol gas.

Reports by the USDA, the average corn harvest is about 147 bushels per acre, or about 8,250 lbs. The vast majority of corn, according to the report, is roughly split between ethanol factories and animal feed, with perhaps 10 percent or less used for food directly.

According to Dick, a lot of science beyond GMOs is also implemented when planting and growing crops. Growing crops, he said, can be a complicated and delicate process. Even when crops have been planted under perfect conditions, severe weather can destroy them or prohibit them from harvesting.

Read more at Fort Morgan Times Agriculture