GM Foods
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GM Foods
A selection of articles I've read on the subject, to present the most balanced set of viewpoints I can manage.
Curated by Clem Stanyon
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Deformed GMO Franken-butterflies? Not so fast... - Mark Lynas

Deformed GMO Franken-butterflies? Not so fast... - Mark Lynas | GM Foods | Scoop.it
It’s like Seralini with caterpillars. While the estimable Professor Giles-Eric had his infamous rats with tumours, this time we get deformed butterflies. The only surprise is that the media has not so far picked up the story, despite the catchy photographs helpfully included by the authors (see below). This is probably a good thing, because … Rea
Clem Stanyon's insight:
An interesting study about the impact of unusual fatty acids on butterfly development, but, like many that the anti-GM food lobby touts as proof of GM food danger, not actually that at all.

1) the fatty acids were not delivered from plants but in an artificial feed
2) the butterflies used were laboratory strains, not wild ones
3) the plants express the fatty acids in their seeds, not the leaves on which the caterpillars feed

Simply put, any metabolite is simply a privileged poison: less toxic per gram weight. Give any organism too much of anything and it will suffer. Too little can be bad, too, which is why we need to produce more fish fatty acids in plants.
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New GM Rice Plant Could Increase Yield And Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

New GM Rice Plant Could Increase Yield And Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions | GM Foods | Scoop.it
A new type of genetically modified rice could be a double whammy – helping to tackle hunger and climate change all at the same time. By inserting a chunk of DNA taken from barley, the rice plant has a higher yield, while also emitting as little as 1% of the methane of conventional rice varieties. The results are published in Nature. 
Clem Stanyon's insight:

The article mentions that China is "not ready" for GM food, which probably means the regulatory structures that substantially compromise the rate of GM Food release in the West are not in place. The good part of that is that China has a chance to get the level of regulation right, based on current estimates of the virtually non-existent dangers of GM Food to the environment, rather than the fears of the largely ignorant scientists of the 70s, whose opinions developed the precautionary level of regulation that has meant GM Food field trials are spectacularly expensive in the West. This expense is the principle reason why only big companies can do field trials, from whence most of the data supporting GM Food safety comes.

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Scientific consensus on GMO safety and climate change

Scientific consensus on GMO safety and climate change | GM Foods | Scoop.it
A scientific consensus is one of the most powerful principles in science, sitting just below the predictive power of a scientific theory. In general, a scientific consensus is the collective opinio...
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Skeptical Raptor is a scientist-come-blogger with a background in the Pharma industry, well versed in dealing with the inane arguments of the anti-vaxxer crowd. He applies the same principles to both climate change and GMO research standards here, juxtaposing the two under headings of the relevant citable organisations. Really, there is very little difference between the two, in terms of scientific evaluation: Climate Change is real; GMOs are not intrinsically bad for the environment.

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Bee collapse is the result of their enslavement in industrial monocultures

Bee collapse is the result of their enslavement in industrial monocultures | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Bee 'colony collapse disorder' cannot be ended by easy technofixes, writes Allan Stromfeldt Christensen. The real problem is the systematic abuse of bees in vast industrial monocultures, as they are trucked or flown thousands of miles from one farm to the next, treated with insecticides and antibiotics, and fed on 'junk food'.
Clem Stanyon's insight:

This relates to GM foods because if GM foods are being used, it will make switching away from monoculture even harder and, possibly, make the degree of monoculture even more pronounced; once a GM cultivar has been brought to market, every plant within that cultivar is literally a clone of the original GM plant.

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Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years - Springer

Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years - Springer | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Clem Stanyon's insight:

Countering the claim of the GM Food lobby that herbicide tolerant plants will result in less use of herbicides, this study clearly indicates that a significant increase in use will occur as natural resistance evolves amongst weeds.

 

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GM tear-free onion created by scientists - Telegraph

GM tear-free onion created by scientists - Telegraph | GM Foods | Scoop.it
A tear-free onion that should be tastier and healthier has been created by using genetic tinkering to turn off the enzyme that makes us cry.
Clem Stanyon's insight:

As easy as knocking out a single gene and no more tears; instead beneficial metabolites. Harder, though, is escertaining whether other metabolites of the plant have changed in any significant and potentially detrimental way. Short of testing every last one of them, there is the black-box test: feed it to animals and see how they fare. So far, though, so good: better, even.

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A 16th-century Dutchman can tell us everything we need to know about GMO patents

A 16th-century Dutchman can tell us everything we need to know about GMO patents | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Today's agribusiness patent holders have locked out innovation. The annals of maritime exploration offer a way out. Really!
Clem Stanyon's insight:

The really interesting part of this article is that it applies far more widely than to patents and GM foods, with seeds as commodities rather than production in their own right. It has to do with the interwoven nature of competition and innovation; without the first, there is little incentive for the second. Think: the Moon Race for a good example, think fossil fuel companies for another: without true conpetition, there is little drive to innovate and create better systems than what was done before. Apple and Microsoft. Paul and John. Left- and Right-wing ideologies . . .

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World changing technology enables crops to take nitrogen from the air - The University of Nottingham

A major new technology enables crops to 'feed' themselves
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Nitrogen is an essential part of life; it is also rate-limiting, in spite of being the principal component of our atmosphere. It has been estimated that two-thirds of the world's population exists only because of nitrogen fixed in the Haber process, an enormously energy-expensive reaction that breaks the N=N triple bond and allows ammonia to be created, from which chemical fetilisers have been derived. These fertilisers drove the Green Revolution of the 50's and 60's.

This 'new technology' – which is really little more than application of an existing bacterium to plant seeds – could herald the end of chemical company control of agriculture. If it is as simple as it sounds, then any farmer could 'create' a crop of genetically-enhanced plants with in-built nitrogen fixing capability in the form of an intra-cellular bacterium.

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What is Corn Spliced With? GMO Genes Revealed!

What is Corn Spliced With? GMO Genes Revealed! | GM Foods | Scoop.it
For exactly three decades genetically modified organisms(GMOs) for agricultural purposes have been in production. Under the premise of “trying to fe ...
Clem Stanyon's insight:

Start of a series on GM foods. If there is a dearth of GM Food literature out there, the industry has itself to blame for making publically available research possible - one more negative effect of intelectual property rules.

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Can We Trust Monsanto with Our Food?: Scientific American

Can We Trust Monsanto with Our Food?: Scientific American | GM Foods | Scoop.it
The real truth about GMOs
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A very poorly written article. I include it in my set only as the comments are quite informative.

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Genetic engineering: Do the differences make a difference?

Genetic engineering: Do the differences make a difference? | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Where you come down on nature -- cradle or battlefield? -- shapes how you think about the risks of genetically modified food.
Clem Stanyon's insight:

This the second in the author's series on GM foods. In his first, Johnson asked how much genetic engineering differs from conventional breeding; his answer was "just a little bit." Given some of the pro-GM arguments - for example that conventional breeding can involve the introduction of large numbers of genes from distant relatives of familiar cultivars - I'd say a little bit is an understatement.

However, moving onto this article, my take is that the question is wrong; it should not be DO they, but CAN they? The answer, like most things to do with proteins, is a bit of a crap shoot: given the massively non-linear network in which genes, proteins and metabolites exist, predicting the outcome of adding a novel protein and, potentially, its metabolic product to the system can't be predicted in advance. Not even a little bit.

EEinstein said: “If we knew what it was we were doing it wouldn’t be called research, would it?” Thus, any research into GM foods is about venturing into the unknown.

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Dwarf plants, the Green Revolution and GM crops

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A bit more technical detail about the role of the dwarf genetic phenotype in the Green Revolution, which places in context the current developments in cloning those genes responsible into other cultivars. There are at least two different genitic loci that have been identified, both involving the plant hormone gibberlin; dwarf plants either have less of the hormone, or reduced sensitivity to it.

I'm going to look into this a bit further: what is the wider effect of gibberlin on the endosperm of wheat; so many people have gluten intolerance that it's hard to believe that the mutation hasn't affected some fundamental metabolic quality of the seed.

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Genetically Modified Crops Only a Fraction of Primary Global Crop Production | Worldwatch Institute

Genetically Modified Crops Only a Fraction of Primary Global Crop Production | Worldwatch Institute | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Clem Stanyon's insight:

Some good statistics on how big an issue are GM foods. Although some tout the 'trillions of meals' containign GM foods that have already been eaten in the US as proof of the lack of effects - this is spite of the on-going obesity epidemic and a host of other, often dietary-related diseases - this article puts into some perspective the place of GM foods in current day agriculture. It's much less than you migh think...

 

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Hedgie Robbins loses $375M on ‘cancerous’ lawn product | New York Post

Hedgie Robbins loses $375M on ‘cancerous’ lawn product | New York Post | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Hedge fund billionaire Larry Robbins has lost as much as $375 million this year on a single bet: Monsanto. Robbins, one of the most successful hedge fund investors on Wall...
Clem Stanyon's insight:

Well, who would have imagined that a poison meant for weeds could do this? Perhaps anyone who read or understands "Silent Spring" ...

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The Misleading War on GMOs: The Food Is Safe. The Rhetoric Is Dangerous.

The Misleading War on GMOs: The Food Is Safe. The Rhetoric Is Dangerous. | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Is genetically engineered food dangerous? Many people seem to think it is. In the past five years, companies have submitted more than 27,000 products to the Non-GMO Project, which certifies goods that are free of genetically modified organisms. Last year, sales of such products nearly tripled. Whole Foods will soon...
Clem Stanyon's insight:

This pretty much nails it for me: GM food as a class is *at least* as safe as any modified by any other method and probably safer than some, such as 'traditional' random mutagenesis, which produced most of the wheat and rice commercial varieties we currently eat.

The vexed issues are and will continue to be those of patenting life and the increased use of toxins that pollute our environment.

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Genetically Engineered Bacteria Could Detect Cancer And Tell You By Making Your Pee Glow

Genetically Engineered Bacteria Could Detect Cancer And Tell You By Making Your Pee Glow | GM Foods | Scoop.it
When you go for a pee, you don’t expect your urine to be luminous. But with a newly developed diagnostic system, this could be an early sign of liver cancer and an indication that you’d better get to the doctor sharpish. By modifying the bacteria commonly used in the production of probiotic yoghurt, researchers think they’ve created a novel cancer test that would only require a pee sample.
Clem Stanyon's insight:

A bit of background: it was once thought that the inside of the body – not your GI tract but all the tissues that your nerves and blood vessels connect – was a sterile place. Turns out that was only as true as our capacity to detect microbial presence, which previously meant the ability to culture said microbes; these days, sequence-based detection means that we can detect even un-culturable microbes, which can account for 80% or more of species present on out 'exterior' surfaces, such as the lumen of the gut, the ducts of the breast, the inside of the mouth. So, in light of that, it's no surprise that E.coli, long-loved bacterial workhorse of the molecular biologist, can enter the bloodstream from the large intestine, find its way to the liver, and colonise cancer clusters there.

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The Biggest Concerns About GMO Food Aren't Really About GMOs

The Biggest Concerns About GMO Food Aren't Really About GMOs | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Everyone from Chipotle to the Food Babe rails against genetically modified ingredients, and laws to label GMO foods are making progress in some states. But the laser focus on GMOs is misguided, because most of the concerns people raise about them aren’t really about GMOs.
Clem Stanyon's insight:

Yup. The more you understand what has already been done to food, both in terms of genetic modification during the 60s' "Green Revolution" and also food processing, the less concerned you will be about the introduction of foreign genes into food. However, there are still lots of reasons to be concerned about GM Foods, not least among them the cementing in place unhealthy monoculturing practices.

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In a Bean, a Boon to Biotech

In a Bean, a Boon to Biotech | GM Foods | Scoop.it
A policy proposed by the Food and Drug Administration could make marketing genetically modified soybeans easier.
Clem Stanyon's insight:

Of course, withthe FDA on-side, things should fly like shit off a shovel... Consider for a moment, though, the recent issues with cholesterol research and the association of that molecule with heart disease - a correlation, not a causation. Caution is advised.

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Argentines link health problems to agrochemicals

Argentines link health problems to agrochemicals | GM Foods | Scoop.it
BASAVILBASO, Argentina (AP) — Argentine farmworker Fabian Tomasi was never trained to handle pesticides.
Clem Stanyon's insight:

So, here's the down-side, not just to GM Foods, but to the whole capitalist principle of making money: no or corrupt regulators means 'externalised' costs that include anything from extreme dysfunction death and disfigurment. Anyone still wonder why people in the US want their food labelled as GM in source? In the words of Billy Joel: it's always been a matter of trust.

Trust capitalist principles? I wouldn't bet a good night's sleep on them to keep me and mine happy and healthy, let alone my life.

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One weird trick to fix farms forever

One weird trick to fix farms forever | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Does David Brandt hold the secret for turning industrial agriculture from global-warming problem to carbon solution?
Clem Stanyon's insight:

Not anything to do with GM foods directly, but the approaches used to enrich soil that are described here would be far faster, cheaper and less problematic to implement in every way, except perhaps in getting people to do something 'new' that is really, actually, very, very old.

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GMO Corn Failing to Protect Fields from Pest Damage: Scientific American

Researchers in the key corn-growing state of Illinois are finding significant damage from rootworms in farm fields planted in a rotation with a genetically modified corn that is supposed to protect the crop from the pests, according to a new report.
Clem Stanyon's insight:

The inevitable outcome of engineering plants with built-in pesticides is pesticide-resistant pests. Many plants already create toxic metabolites to protect themselves, yet all these things exist in a complex, inter-connected ecosystem. Monoculture of one species, with only one pesticide, puts an evolutionary pressure on insects that is unparralleled in the natural world.

That's how the simplistic, Newtonian, two-step logic of human engineering works. It was the same for cancer: first the one-gene hypothesis, then two, now many and varied; similarly, cancer and HIV was first treated with one drug, then two, now many.

What is needed is not one, single insecticide, in a single strain, but a slew of different toxic metabolites, each in a different strain - cultivar - of plants, which are otherwise identical, and planted in a mixture. Thus, any insect developing resistance to one pesticide would find itself surrounded by a sea of plants producing pestidices to which it was still susceptible: not much increase in fitnees there.

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Top 5 GMO Myths Debunked

Top 5 GMO Myths Debunked | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Heather Callaghan What do you say to your friends and family who want to know why you are passionate about growing your own, buying local organic, and ...
Clem Stanyon's insight:

From what I've read, these debunks are accurate, though liberally seasoned with Banoosh's trademark irony.

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Case studies: A hard look at GM crops

Case studies: A hard look at GM crops | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Superweeds? Suicides? Stealthy genes? The true, the false and the still unknown about transgenic crops.
Clem Stanyon's insight:

Well written article that summarises and addresses the claims made against GM foods.

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Why Not Demanding GMO Labeling is Udder Foolishness... (Get it? It's a pun!)

Why Not Demanding GMO Labeling is Udder Foolishness...      (Get it? It's a pun!) | GM Foods | Scoop.it
Over in Off The Cuff, Kazzy asked whether or not he was a “bad liberal” or “taking crazy pills” for his belief that food processors should not be required to label food that comes from genetically ...
Clem Stanyon's insight:

The crux of the matter, for this author, is:

"Of all the non-negotiable demands consumers might make, “it’s not ok for companies to hide information about the food I eat” should always be right up there at the top."

Note, though, that reams and reams of information about the food we eat is currently not available. However, maybe there will be an app for that, soon, just as there is for finding out what companies produce your food, so you can buy accordingly.

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JYI: The Journal of Young Investigators

Clem Stanyon's insight:

Good long, solid and peer-reviewed article on the subject.

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