First ever long-term GM feeding study on pigs

August 2013
... more than 150 scientific studies have been done on animals fed biotech crops and to date, there is no scientific evidence of any detrimental impact” (biotech representative, CropLife International).
With a bit of cherry-picking of what constitutes appropriate scientific evidence this may be true. However, it's easy to see why no 'detrimental impact' has emerged. The 'scientific studies' has been largely based on animal models with little relevance to humans, on diets restricted to single GMOs, on very short time-scales, and on superficial data relevant only to commercial livestock production.

When a team of Australian and American scientists, led by Dr. Judy Carman, carried out an experiment which avoided the above short-comings, it raised concerns.

Big PR

August 2013

Commentary

It would be funny if it wasn't serious.

Big Biotech, Big Agrichemical and Big Food (more than 50 companies in all) have joined together to create the biggest ever PR drive to shove GM down our unwilling throats.

The result?A freshly hand-picked PR firm (not yet identified), a new front group (Alliance to Feed the Future), and a new website (GMOAnswers.com) inviting you to “join the conversation and ask your questions about GMOs”.

GM crop decontamination in Oregon

August 2013
20120106-OC-AMW-0362
Sugar beet. CC photo by USDA on Flickr
Something's happening in the US State of Oregon that we, in Europe, have been led to believe Americans don't do. People are pulling up GM plants: 6,500 GM sugar-beets to be precise.

It's not too hard to understand why such anti-American behaviour should emerge in this particular State. The State has already had more than its fair share of awareness-raising events.

Earlier in 2013, another GM-impossible happened there: rogue GM wheat was found growing on an Oregon farm (see CONTAMINATION DÉJÀ VU - June 2013). Such genetic pollution by a GM plant not approved anywhere in the world could cost American farmers billions of dollars. Despite Department of Agriculture scouring of grain elevators, fields and research stations, the source of the contamination hasn't been found: it could happen again any time, anywhere.

The power of labelling

August 2013

Right 2Know March (GMO Labeling)
Right2Know March in the US. Photo by Daniel Lobo on Flickr
Way back in the pre-dawn of the GM era, the President of Asgrow Seed Co, a subsidiary of Monsanto, said:
“If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it” (Kansas City Star, 7.03.94).
At about the same time, UK regulators found themselves grappling with the novel foods expected to flood our food chain. The food safety advisory body dreamed up the idea that all that was necessary was to educate the people about GM and they would be happy to accept it.

When the British public failed to believe that 'scientists know what they are doing', the 'GM Nation?' debate was organised, including a 'narrow-but-deep' discussion panel expected to show how we would become more accepting of GM once we learned more about it. Our government was wrong: the more people know about GM food, the less they trust it.

dsRNA in the field is bad news

August 2013

Biotechnology Lab Tech 10
Test tubes in a biotechnology lab.
CC photo by wistechcolleges on Flickr
The latest thing in GM technology uses a new tactic: it doesn't involve inserting genes, but creates 'RNA-interference' to alter the expression of existing genes. Crops using one form of this technology, insecticidal double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), are already in the pipeline.

Just when the official damage-limitation response to New Zealand scientist Jack Heinemann's warnings about the risks of dsRNA was fully underway in Australia and New Zealand [1, 2, 3], an even more detailed critic emerged unexpectedly from the 'father' of GM, America.

dsRNA Media Centre

August 2013

Tissue Culture
Plant propagation in a lab. CC photo by IRRI Images on Flickr
It comes as no surprise that safety assessment of the latest DNA-altered crops with 'ds-RNA' traits, is being side-stepped. These GM crops have identifiable risks, and raise many questions which are being 'answered' using assumptions and generalisations, but scant science (see RNA-MODIFIED FOOD and dsRNA:SILENCING REGULATION - July 2013).

Nor does it come as a surprise that the scientists who published safety evaluations critical of dsRNA and the dsRNA-based GM wheat now under development in Australia have come under attack. Needless to say, the studies they prepared are fully referenced, up-to-date in their science, and have passed the most rigorous peer-review process in existence.