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

Are GMOs bad? Science Says They’re Safe

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are hotly debated all around the world. Many people are very concerned about engineering crops and animals because of the long-term effect this might have on our planet and our bodies. It’s no wonder then that the opinions people have about GMOs are so polarizing.

According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, “about half of Americans (48%) say the health effects of GM foods are no different than other foods, 39% say GM foods are worse for one’s health and one-in-ten (10%) say such foods are better for one’s health.” About one in six Americans are deeply concerned with GMOs and predominantly believe GM foods pose health risks.

Are GMOs safe?

Despite the public having polarized opinions on the safety of GMOs, scientists overwhelmingly agree that GMOs pose no hazard to consumers. In sharp contrast to public views about GMOs, 89% of scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) believe genetically modified foods are safe, the Pew Research Center study found.

“There are several current efforts to require labeling of foods containing products derived from genetically modified crop plants, commonly known as GM crops or GMOs. These efforts are not driven by evidence that GM foods are actually dangerous. Indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe. Rather, these initiatives are driven by a variety of factors, ranging from the persistent perception that such foods are somehow “unnatural” and potentially dangerous to the desire to gain a competitive advantage by legislating attachment of a label meant to alarm. Another misconception used as a rationale for labeling is that GM crops are untested,” reads an AAAS statement.

Read more at ZME Science

Genetically Modified Organisms Can Help With Food Security

Abu Dhabi: Despite the controversy surrounding it, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) used for food can play a big role in meeting the world’s future food security needs, with scientific studies thus far showing that genetically modified foods pose no harm to humans, said a distinguished researcher in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Held at New York University Abu Dhabi, the talk was given by Nina Fedoroff, a molecular biologist who has served as science adviser under former US secretaries of state, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. During her talk, Fedoroff acknowledged that a public mistrust towards GMO foods existed, but pointed out that the use of GMOs was growing around the world.

“GM crops were grown by roughly 18 million farmers in 26 countries on 457 million acres [of land in 2016],” she added, highlighting an official study that was carried out by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.

“More than 90 percent of the farmers growing [GM foods] are resource-poor farmers in developing countries, [and] the overall profits were roughly equally divided between the developed and the developing world. So it’s not a simple case that this only benefits big farmers,” she said, highlighting how farmers were also benefiting.

Continue Reading to Gulf News