Genetically edited organisms are GMOs

February 2016

EU law-makers are struggling with the thorny question of how to regulate genetically edited organisms, or even whether to regulate them at all [1].

Their problem is mushrooming under an onslaught of diverse 'New Breeding Techniques' pouring out of laboratories. These techniques are genetic editing with a handful of old-style gene insertions thrown in [2].

Why should a body which has taken so much care and time deliberating and implementing regulations on genetic modification, be struggling with what seems to be no more than a set of variations on the same GM theme?

Kids have a right to know too

February 2016

"... to be maximally healthy" Michael Pollan advises "Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants."


The second and third recommendations can easily be achieved with a gradual adjustment of lifestyle. But finding food, not a "food-like substance" but real food, not just a brand-name but the stuff you can tell what it is you're eating without being told can be challenging.

Consumers in America are, however, rising to this challenge.

Bt toxins don't act in a vacuum

February 2016 

Having predictably triggered a range of new pest problems with its 'Bt' insecticidal GM crops [1], the biotech industry has been busy developing seeds which generate multiple Bt-toxins to solve the problems it created in the first place.

Concerns have already been raised about the lack of safety testing of single-Bt crops, in particular the assumptions and generalisations underlying the excuses not to test [2]. Even more tenuous 'reasons' are being trotted out to obviate testing of next-generation Bt crops which, so far, have up to six different insecticides in them.

Could Bt crops wipe out biodiversity?

February 2016

The major target of "Bt" insecticidal proteins in GM crops is moth caterpillars, different species of which feed voraciously on the stems, leaves, roots, or developing seed parts, of important commodity crops.

Although most insect pest attacks are localised to specific parts of the plant, Bt plants are genetically transformed to produce the insecticidal protein throughout their tissues including the seeds and pollen.

Is Bt insecticide really species-specific?

February 2016


‘Bt’ insecticides are proteins produced by soil bacteria which have been used, as sprays, in organic farming for many years. They, therefore, arrived in their novel form inside GM crops complete with an existing reputation for long-term safe use by people who care about nature.

The safety of the artificial 'Bt' toxins as generated by GM crops is also based on their claimed species-specificity. Due to unique properties of the Bt protein, conventional wisdom says that it only becomes harmful if it can bind to receptors specific to the surface of the targeted pest gut-cells. Once bound, the toxin creates pores in the gut allowing its contents to leak out into the pest's body with lethal consequences. In any other animal, Bt protein is digested just like any other dietary protein.

Because regulators have accepted these claims, and because it's a useful, green-sounding selling point, and because pest-specificity avoids any need for tests on other animals, the biotech industry is very keen to maintain the belief in this limited toxicity of its Bt toxins.

However, Swiss environmental scientists have seriously questioned how much is actually known about Bt proteins.

GM crop failures 2015

February 2016


GM in Europe

There's only one kind of GM maize being grown in Europe, and it isn't doing too well.

Edinburgh ditches Glyphosate

February 2016
 
What do Barcelona and Edinburgh have in common?
 
They are two of the most picturesque cities, they both have stunning architecture and an awful lot of tourists, and both can boast lots of green spaces. Also, they each have City Councillors on the ball enough to notice that they are treating their green spaces with a probable carcinogen, to which their citizens and tourists will probably be exposed. Therefore, they've both come to conclusion that it's probably a good idea to ban the offending substance.

US food trends going into 2016

February 2016
 
It became increasingly obvious during 2015 that eating habits across the USA are changing.
 
For today's Americans, all those processed, packaged offerings on the grocery shelves are conjuring up images of Michael Pollan's 'food-like substances' stripped of their nutrition, and loaded with chemicals and sugar. Consumers are demanding fresh, local, organic food.
 
After decades of foisting ever-cheaper, and ever-more-artificial fare on the public using deceptive marketing, corporate-sponsored research and government lobbying, food manufacturers are finding that their erstwhile customers are walking away from the country's most iconic food brands. Big brand names are fast becoming liabilities.