Category Archives: GM food

New genetic modification techniques – Australia

The following is a quote from an email I received today regarding the approval of new GM tech in Australia:

Next week Dr Michael Antoniou, Reader in Molecular Genetics at King’s College London School of Life Sciences will be visiting Melbourne. He is here to discuss his concerns with a range of new genetic engineering techniques that the Federal Government is currently proposing not to regulate.
If the Government deregulates these techniques anyone from amateur biohackers – to industry – would be free to use them to genetically modify plants, animals and microbes. And they could enter our food chain and our environment with no safety testing and no labelling. The results could be catastrophic.

The key phrase is ‘proposing not to regulate‘, closely followed by ‘no safety testing‘ and ‘no labelling‘.

Genetic modification is here to stay and we have to accept that, but we do not have to accept a wild, wild west style free-for-all. Surely an ethical approach is not too much to ask from our government, even the Liberals?

The ‘GM 2.0: What the Government isn’t telling you’ forum is being held next Monday:
6.30 (for a 7pm start) – 9pm, Monday 20th March
William Angliss Institute: Rm. A337, Building A, 555 La Trobe St., Melbourne

Please email Louise Sales <louise.sale@foe.org.au> for a ticket if you can attend [they’re free].

If not, please get people talking about this issue. Isn’t it time our opinions were heard? Corporations may stand to make a lot of money out of this, but you and I will be the bunnies who have to live with it.

cheers

Meeks

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Glyphosate and autism…or is it?

I would very much like to believe that the glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup is toxic, but I’ve just found a comment that brings the current ‘proof’ into question. The comment, from Henry, is copy-pasted below.

I have to admit that the word “autism” troubled me a great deal when reading this piece. The whole debacle with vaccines and autism has been quite well-publicised as an example of bad science. The reason why autism spectrum disorder always seems to pop up should be clear.
Autism spectrum disorder affects children. And there are a lot of concerned and frightened parents in the world, who look things up on the internet.
It turns out Stephanie Seneff is quite infamous for a paper she co-wrote in 2013. Here are two links to articles debunking her paper at the time by people more familiar with the topic than I am.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamar-haspel/condemning-monsanto-with-_b_3162694.html
http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/12/31/oh-no-gmos-are-going-to-make-everyone-autistic/
Some of the main points in the articles are that:
– Correlation between glyphosate use and autism over time does not prove causality; indeed there is a similar correlation between organic food sales and autism.
– Showing that a compound affects an enzyme in gut bacteria is far removed from showing any link with any disease, let alone proving that the compound causes autism specifically.
– “Exogenous semiotic entropy”, a phrase used in the paper, is made-up.
– The paper contains no original research.
Now this is not to defend Monsanto as an organisation (the interplay of intellectual property and genetics is something I’m really not comfortable with). But please let’s not get into fearmongering. I really admire this blog because the information you throw light on is not just interesting, but also accurate.
Thanks for your consideration~
Henry

I have followed both links and read them. Honestly, I no longer know what to think. Please read Henry’s comment and let’s talk about this. I have someone with Ulcerative Colitis in the family so this is rather important to me.

As a lay person, I can’t speak for any of the facts, on either side, but the disruption of the shikimate pathway in gut bacteria does worry me. We do not know everything there is to know about either the human body or the bacteria that live in our gut and seem to have a symbiotic relationship with us. At the very least, I’d like to see some serious research into what effect, if any, the glyphosate has on our gut bacteria. All? Or just a few? Which ones? And does it matter to them? If it does matter, then I’d like to know if it affects us and in what ways.

I think these are valid questions, but as far as I know, the research hasn’t been done, and that is the problem with the correlation vs causation argument: until we can disprove any harmful connection between glyphosate and shikimate pathways and gut bacteria and humans, we cannot prove that there is no causation either. Examples off the top of my head include: smoking and lung cancer, asbestos and mesothelioma, h.pylori and stomach ulcers, thalidomide and birth defects, human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. I was tempted to mention agent orange but I have no idea where the research is on that one.

I’m not saying the glyphosate/shikimate pathways/gut bacteria situation is the same, but the question has been raised, and I’d hate to throw the baby out with the bath water. Whether the answer will have anything to do with autism [or ulcerative colitis] is irrelevant. This is something we need to know, and I, for one, do not trust Monsanto to provide a non-biased answer.

Please tell me what you think.

Meeks


#Monsanto, Roundup and the spike in #autism

Like a lot of people, I’ve worried that GMOs would cause health problems down the track, but I assumed that Monsanto’s Roundup was just another weedkiller. Wrong. Roundup has been the villain of the piece all along. 😦

Before you  watch the video talk below, let me give you a very quick roundup [excuse the pun] of how this all began. The first genetically modified food product was the Flavr Savr tomato. The company that produced it was bought out by Monsanto, but Monsanto was not in the business of producing food, it was in the business of producing weedkiller. So why buy the GMO technology? The reason was to produce food crops that would be, effectively, immune to the effects of its Roundup Ready product. Such crops would, effectively, extend the life of the Roundup product indefinitely.

To achieve this goal, Monsanto needed to get its Roundup tolerant crops into commercial production as quickly and cheaply as possible. This meant two things:

  • circumventing the testing protocols that apply to medicinal drugs
  • and avoiding the necessity for product labelling

The development of medicinal drugs is a very long and costly process as the drugs have to be tested extensively, not only to prove their efficacy, but also to prove that they don’t do more harm than good. All of this research, development and testing takes years and costs a lot of money. A lot of years and a ton of money. At about the 6 minute mark of the video, you’ll hear that Monsanto only tested their product for 3 months. And no, that was not a typo. As for labelling, the US still doesn’t have it.

The Frankenfoods protests focused everyone’s attention on the GMOs themselves, and environmentally they are still a huge concern. But in all the outrage, the effects of Roundup slipped quietly under the radar. It was meant to be safe. Monsanto said it was safe. Right…

glyphosate-damage

Even if you’re not a ‘scientific’ person, Stephanie Seneff explains her findings in a clear, easy to understand way, and this is information we all need to know. The bit about glyphosate accumulating in breast milk really floored me.

My thanks to D.Wallace Peach for opening my eyes. First DDT, now Roundup. We are what we eat, and it’s hurting us in stealthy, insidious ways, starting with our children.

roundup-in-rats

Bon appetit,

Meeks


GMOs – currently in Australia

Some time ago, I sent a protest email regarding genetically modified wheat [via Change.org??]. To my great surprise, I was put on a database to receive notification of various field trials etc.

To my great shame, I did not look into these trials the way I should have. I guess I assumed others with more knowledge would ‘do something about it’. 😦

Today I received notification of one field trial I could not ignore. It had to do with Monsanto. At first, I was worried that knowledge of this application was secret, but I found that information, and a whole lot more, on the government’s own website. Here is a portion of it:

australia-current-gmo

Clicking on the screenshot should display the image in full.

And just in case you can’t read the web address, here it is :

http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/ir-1

The reason I’m posting about this is because:

  • I was shocked at how many field trials and commercial applications there are – the list literally goes on and on, and
  • I’m pretty sure that the general public hasn’t got a clue how much is going on behind our backs – notice the genetically modified banana???

I’ve always believed that there is a place for gene engineering, so long as:

  • it is properly controlled with all possible safeguards in place
  • and is for the benefit of humanity in general – such as a new vaccine.

The problem with genetic engineering carried out by Monsanto et al., is that they do not use genetic engineering for ‘altruistic’ purposes, and they do not have to apply the same rigorous and expensive testing as do GMOs destined for drugs/medicine.

Given the length of the list on the government website, I suspect the horse has bolted, but we may still be able to protect our organic growers from cross contamination…if we show that we do care.

Please spread the word about this list as far as you can. 😦

Meeks

 


#gene editing vs #GMOs

I just read an article about a scientist at Umea university in Sweden who was given permission to grow ‘gene edited’ cabbage in his own garden because…gene editing is not the same as genetic modification.

The regulations around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products have been tricky to navigate, and plants that fall within the definition of a GMO effectively can’t be grown in the field in Europe.

To overcome this, the team at Umea University appealed to the Swedish Board of Agriculture to allow its particular strain of cabbage to fall outside the definition of a GMO. And it worked: since the mutation that causes a lack of the PsbS protein is naturally occurring in some cases, simply intervening to deliberately switch it off is acceptable, as long as no foreign DNA is introduced.

And therein lies the supposed difference between edited and modified genes:

  • modified genes have something added,
  • edited genes merely have something turned off.

The fact that both techniques produce a change in the DNA of the organism is, apparently, ‘a mere technicality, Mr dear Watson’.

I am no geneticist, but I am interested in the field and I can remember when it was thought that genes were all that mattered. In fact, large sections of DNA were considered to be ‘junk’ because they did not ‘do’ anything. Then, as years went by, scientists discovered that this ‘junk’ DNA wasn’t junk at all. They also discovered that genes can be turned on and off and that it is this malleability that is important. Then they discovered that groups of genes, turned on and off, had an effect in combination…

My point in all of this is that genetics is still an evolving science. Geneticists do not know all there is to know about DNA. At best, given the current state of knowledge, they can make educated guesses, but following through with those guesses involves an element of risk. That risk is recognized in the creation of new medicines which must go through years of clinical trials to reduce the likelihood of adverse reactions amongst those who will take those medicines.

With food plants, however, slippery language has allowed geneticists to alter the DNA of plants without having to subject them to the same rigorous testing as medicines. Monsanto began the ‘spin’ by convincing the FDA that genetically altered plants were ‘substantially equivalent’ to their commercially grown cousins, and therefore did not require the same degree of testing.

The argument behind ‘substantial equivalence’ is that farmers have been breeding – i.e. changing the DNA of – plants for millenia and genetic modication is no different, just a bit…faster. The fact that back then, genetic modification was a shotgun approach, literally, by scientists who knew a whole lot less than they do now, did not seem to bother anyone, least of all the FDA. And the fact that US consumers were given no choice in the matter still doesn’t bother the US authorities.

Now, Umea university is playing fast and loose with language again. Why? In order to get around the law as it stands in Europe. New tool, new language, same old spin, same old lie.

The following is an email I sent off just before writing this post:

genetic-editing-email

I don’t expect to receive a response, other than perhaps something derogatory, but I had to make the effort because we in the West are dying of spin, dying of lies, dying of hypocrisy.

Is it really so much to ask that our leaders, and the most emminent minds of our scientists act with integrity?

We are not children, and we are not stupid. If the only way you can get what you want is by trying to fool us, then what you want is not worth having.

Meeks

 


Being wrong about food.

I have not written much about GMOs [genetically modified organisms] because… because I did not want to come across as some conspiracy theorist who has an axe to grind against ‘Frankenfoods’.

The truth is, I do not believe genetic engineering is inherently ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’. Like any branch of science, genetic research has the potential to save lives. But…

But the sneaky introduction of genetically modified organisms into our food chain was not the solution to some dire ‘need’. There is nothing wrong with the food we currently have. So why ‘fix’ it? The answer is to make money.

Again, making money is not inherently ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’. But… when the imperative to make money results in :

1. Buying legislators to ensure GM food does NOT have to go through the same rigorous, and expensive testing as drugs, and

2. Denies consumers both knowledge and choice

then that is morally wrong, and an abuse of the technology.

But don’t take my word for it. Please follow the link below to a post with truly shocking facts and figures.

Being wrong about food..

Once you have read this post you can make up your own minds about whether this situation is dangerous or not.

Meeks


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