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It's Immoral to Oppose Genetic Engineering

There’s an old saying that no good deed goes unpunished. That certainly seems to be true for many breakthroughs in genetic engineering. Here are several particularly egregious examples.

1. “Biopharming” — a new way to make drugs

Diarrhea is the number-two infectious killer of children under the age of five in developing countries, surpassed only by respiratory diseases. It accounts for roughly 2 million deaths a year. But thanks to a simple but ingenious innovation by an emerging biotech company, Ventria Bioscience, those numbers could become a relic of the past, like mortality from smallpox and bubonic plague.

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Since the 1960s, the standard of care for childhood diarrhea in the developing world has been the World Health Organization’s formulation of rehydration solution, a glucose-based, high-sodium liquid that is administered orally. This low-tech product was revolutionary. It saved countless lives and reduced the need for costly (and often unavailable) hospital stays and intravenous rehydration.However, this product did nothing to lessen the severity or duration of the condition, which over time leads to malnutrition, anemia, and other chronic health risks. The solution (literally and figuratively) may be an ingenious, affordable innovation from Ventria that combines high- and low-tech components to deliver what could be a veritable Holy Grail: two proteins produced inexpensively in rice that radically improve the effectiveness of oral rehydration solutions.

It has been known for decades that breast-fed children get sick with diarrhea and other infections less often than those fed with formula. Research in Peru has shown that fortifying oral rehydration solution with two of the primary protective proteins in breast milk, lactoferrin and lysozyme, lessens the duration of diarrhea and reduces the rate of recurrence. The availability of such an improved oral rehydration solution to people in the developing world would thus be a near-miraculous advance.

Ventria joined with researchers at the University of California, Davis, and at a leading children’s hospital and a nutrition institute in Lima, Peru, to test the effects of adding lactoferrin and lysozyme to a rice-based oral rehydration solution. They found that the addition of the two proteins to the solution reduced the average duration of the children’s illness from more than five days to 3.7. Moreover, over the twelve-month follow-up period, the children who had received the rice-based solution had less than half the recurrence rate of diarrhea (8 percent versus 18 percent in the control sample).

What makes this approach to managing diarrhea feasible is Ventria’s invention of a genetically engineered method that uses rice to produce lactoferrin and lysozyme. This process, dubbed “biopharming,” is an inexpensive and ingenious way to synthesize the large quantities of these proteins that will be necessary. The rice kernel is processed to extract and purify the proteins, which are then used to formulate the improved rehydration solution. They have the same structure and functional properties as the proteins in natural breast milk, and the process is analogous to that used routinely for the production of therapeutic proteins from other organisms, such as bacteria and yeast.

The proven life-saving potential of these products has not prevented activists from opposing them. In Peru, left-wing protesters raised completely baseless and malicious objections to the clinical trials, claiming that the rights of the pediatric subjects were being violated. Typically, the activists grossly misrepresented the facts pertaining to the conduct of the trial and the product iself. The proteins used to supplement the oral rehydration solution are considered Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the protocols, consent forms, and study design of the trial were, in fact, approved not only by the Peruvian Ministry of Health, but also by review panels that oversee clinical trials at the University of California and the Nutritional Institute in Peru. The naysayers seem unimpressed by the fact that the experimental therapy was found to be both safe and effective.

2. Genetically engineered mosquitoes are all the buzz

A second example is a genetically engineered mosquito intended to reduce the mosquito population that carries dengue fever, a debilitating and often fatal disease. With more than one-third of the world’s population living in areas at risk for transmission, dengue infection is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics. As many as 100 million people may be infected yearly, and tens of thousands, mostly children, die. Caused by four different but related viruses, it is spread by the bite of mosquitoes, most commonly the mosquito Aedes aegypti.

A British company, Oxitec, uses ingenious genetic-engineering techniques to create new varieties of the mosquito species that transmit the disease. Their approach introduces a gene that produces a protein that stops mosquitoes’ cells from functioning normally. The modified mosquitoes produce high levels of the protein, which, although not toxic itself, confounds some of the cell’s essential machinery and causes death. The modified males carrying the lethal gene are not affected as long as they are fed a special diet. When they are released, they survive long enough to mate with wild females, but the offspring die.

Working with local health officials and university scientists and after receiving appropriate approvals, Oxitec undertook experimental releases of these modified mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands and in the Juazeiro region of Brazil. According to the published accounts of these releases, the Oxitec approach to controlling mosquito population was highly effective, reducing the infected mosquito population by 80 percent in the Cayman Islands and by 90 percent in Brazil. Oxitec is awaiting Brazilian Health Ministry approval of this approach as an acceptable dengue-control policy.

In the Cayman Islands and Brazil, GeneWatch activists spread alarming, false rumors that the field trials of genetically engineered mosquitoes were dangerous and had been undertaken without informing the public. Similarly, activists have circulated petitions in Key West, Florida — where dengue reappeared three years ago after an absence of more than 70 years — to prevent the release of the mosquitoes there. The sentiments of the director of a mosquito-control agency in Florida illustrate the difficulties of dealing with the activists: “I thought that if I presented the facts in a reasonable manner, people would respond in a reasonable way. But that’s not happening.”

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3. Nice rice prevents blindness and deathThe third example is a potential nutritional/medical breakthrough called Golden Rice. Rice is a food staple for billions of people, especially in Asia, and although it is an excellent source of calories, it lacks certain micronutrients necessary for a complete diet. In the 1980s and 1990s, German scientists Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer developed rice varieties that are biofortified, or enriched, by the introduction of genes that enable the edible endosperm of rice to produce beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. (It is converted in the human body, as needed, to the active form of the vitamin.)

The scourge of vitamin A deficiency is epidemic among poor people whose diet consists largely of rice (the edible portion of which contains neither beta-carotene nor vitamin A) or other carbohydrate-rich, vitamin-poor sources of calories. In developing countries, 200–300 million children of preschool age are at risk of vitamin A deficiency, which increases their susceptibility to common childhood infections such as measles and diarrheal diseases and is the single most important cause of childhood blindness in developing countries. Every year, about half a million children go blind as a result of vitamin A deficiency, and 70 percent of those die within a year of losing their sight.

To test the Golden Rice, in 2008, researchers from Zehjiang Academy of Medical Sciences, in cooperation with Tufts University, undertook clinical trials in children. These researchers had received approval from the appropriate ethics and institutional-review boards of the respective institutions. As reported in their published paper on the clinical trials, children who ate the Golden Rice had higher levels of vitamin A than if they had consumed traditional rice or other food sources of the vitamin.

Once again, in spite of the unequivocal benefits to public health, activists not only opposed the product but made bogus allegations about its testing. In China, Greenpeace criticized the Golden Rice trial, claiming in a press release that children had been “used as guinea pigs.” Chinese news agencies picked up the story, inaccurately reporting that the researchers had conducted dangerous, unauthorized experiments on poor children, and within days, police had interrogated the researchers and coerced from them statements disavowing the research. Their homes were searched and research documents seized. (Previously, Greenpeace activists had first alleged that Golden Rice would deliver toxic amounts of vitamin A, and when that was shown to be virtually impossible, changed tack and claimed that it would provide too little Vitamin A to be effective.)

4. Life-saving products obstructed by irresponsible activism

Although these three safe, effective, genetically engineered products — which are only a microcosm of what is possible — offer tremendous promise for public health, especially in poorer countries, all have elicited tenacious and cynical antagonism from activists. Part of the ripple effect is that the intransigent opposition to genetic engineering by anti-science, anti-technology groups provides already risk-averse regulators the political “cover” to delay regulatory approvals. The result is that more people — especially children — continue to die unnecessarily and potential innovators are discouraged from entering the field.

Activism intended to delay progress toward life-saving products and technologies is irresponsible and despicable. If actions by leaders of nations resulted in such public-health calamities, they would be accused of crimes against humanity.

The callousness of the anti-genetic-engineering activists should appall us, and if we fail to oppose these malefactors, we should also be ashamed.

— Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA. Drew L. Kershen is the Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law (Emeritus), University of Oklahoma College of Law, in Norman, Okla.

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Crop Protection Partnership is a Game-Changer in Honduras

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For Honduran farmer Salomón Lorenzo Vázquez, Tuesday has become the most important day of the week. Here's why.
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With This Genetic Engineering Technology, There’s No Turning Back

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With This Genetic Engineering Technology, There’s No Turning Back (Technology Review) https://t.co/KbMEIVBj4s
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Queen's University research could help reduce global crop losses - Crop Protection News

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Technology from researchers at Queen’s University Belfast could reduce crop losses around the world by combating parasitic "nematodes" that annually destroy approximately 12 percent of global agriculture productivity. ...
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UNL to lead $13.5 million sorghum biofuel research effort - KETV Omaha

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The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will lead a $13.5 million research effort looking at sorghum as a sustainable source for biofuel production.
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Science-deniers must be denied - Livemint

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Both anti-GMO and anti-climate change activists use the same kind of tactics to agitate and militate for their own purposes
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Seeds of ancient potatoes added to Arctic seed vault - Crop Protection News

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Ancient potato varieties that were once believed to be lost will now be saved in the Arctic seed vault in Norway for future generations.
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Ban on GM foods imports to be lifted in two months- Kenya's Deputy President, Hon. William Ruto

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Cabinet expected to discuss the matter before nodding to biotechnology products, says DP William Ruto.
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Rice revolution? New rice could help feed world, fight climate change. - Christian Science Monitor

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A new strain of rice produces more and larger grains and reduces methane emissions from rice farming, perhaps the largest human-based source of the greenhouse gas. But it's genetically modified, which could lead to a backlash.
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Give scientists space to deliver better products to farmers | The Star

Give scientists space to deliver better products to farmers | The Star | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Kwame Ogero's insight:

The debate on whether Kenya should adopt modern agricultural biotechnology continues to receive mixed reactions with anti-GMOs group calling for rejection of biotech products until the safety of such crops is proven. This controversy has given some politicians and anti-GM technology alike, a platform to spread propaganda with allegations that consumption of GMOs will have unknown health impacts on consumers.

Like their counterparts in the rest of the world, Kenyan scientists including biotech experts, continuously avoid plunging into the treacherous world of politics where lies and truth are the “same.”

In Kenya, the debate on agricultural biotechnology, which include unfounded statements that the country has inadequate capacity to appropriately handle GMOs, is the clearest indicator that some policymakers need to be encouraged to make informed opinions or decisions by visiting universities, research centres and regulatory institutions to familiarise themselves with progress that the country is making in the field of modern biotechnology.

- See more at: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/give-scientists-space-deliver-better-products-farmers#sthash.vWuO8EOh.dpuf

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Trends in Global Approvals of Biotech Crops (1992–2014)- Crop Biotech Update ( 7/8/2015 ) | ISAAA.org/KC

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Trends in Global Approvals of Biotech Crops (1992–2014): With the increasing number of genetically modified (GM) crops, approval of these technologies may vary depending on the needs, demand, and trade inter...
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Profiling the controversial organic-funded activist professor, Gilles-Éric Séralini

Profiling the controversial organic-funded activist professor, Gilles-Éric Séralini | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Gilles-Éric Séralini | | June 18, 2015 |
Kwame Ogero's insight:

Gilles-Éric Séralini is a French scientist who has been a professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen since 1991. Known for his research concluding that genetically modified food is unsafe for human consumption, his latest publication, released in PLOS ONE on July 2, 2015–“Laboratory Rodent Diets Contain Toxic Levels of Environmental Contaminants: Implications for Regulatory Tests”–maintains that all safety studies of pesticides and genetically modified foods are ‘invalid’ because, the researchers claim, the dried feeds used as control diets for lab animals are “contaminated” by GMOs, pesticides, heavy metals and other substances.

Funding for PLOS ONE Study and other Séralini Research

Funding for this study and much of Séralini’s previous research comes directly from one of the US organic industry’s leading figures, Anthony Rodale–chairman emeritus of Rodale’s Organic and founder of theRodale Institute, a 501c3 that bills itself as “advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest option for people and the planet.” Rodale works closely with former Patrick Holden, former director of the UK Soil Association, which calls itself a “charity campaigning for planet-friendly organic practices” and “healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use.”

They two provide money via a U.S. NGO known as the Sustainable Food Alliance (SFA) to overseas organic and anti-GMO groups, including scientists such as Séralini, without having to make the grants public. About US$2 million appears to have gone from this NGO to research for “herbicide” and “toxic evaluations” between 2011-2013. Seralini’s research group acknowledged support from SFA in the PLOS ONE article. Séralini has previously received funding from Greenpeace, which financed a 2007 study that claimed that GM corn caused health problems in rats. The study was reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority, which concluded that all of the statistical anomalies cited by the study group were attributable to “normal biological variation.”

Sources of funding listed for his current study:

CRIIGENJMG Foundation (formerly the Goldsmith Foundation, led by ecology environmental activist Ben Goldsmith)Lea Nature, an organic and natural products companyFoundations Charles Léopold Mayer for the Progress of HumankindNature Vivante, an ecological trade associationMalongo, a fair trade, organic coffee companyDenis Gouchard, a natural living foundationThe Sustainable Food Alliance,a non-profit organization run by Rodale Organic’s Anthony Rodale whose mission is “To educate the public about the positive health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming.” Board members include: Patrick Holden, Owsley Brown, Clair Peters and Ed Baldrige.
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Download Genetic Engineering Ebook

___Browse And Download This Ebook now. ___Download now at : http://bit.ly/1Iwxe2t ___If you can't To download Registration First ...
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GMO Potatoes And Apples Earn FDA Approval: Coming Soon To A Restaurant ... - Medical Daily

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Samsung bets big on biotechnology

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SONGDO, Incheon -- Samsung BioLogics broke ground on its third production plant in Songdo, Incheon, Monday, drawing closer toward its stated goal of becoming the world’s No. 1 contract manufacturer of biologic drugs by 2020. The new plant, to be constructed with an investment of 850 billion won ($740 million) will boast a production capacity of 180,000 liters to become the single largest biologics manufacturing fac...
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Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Reduce Dengue Transmitters by 95 Percent

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RT @mark_lynas: Genetic engineering reduces dengue-carrying mosquitos by 95%: http://t.co/2OTPVhtCFn PLOS paper: http://t.co/pXqypnVEM8 @Ox…
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Scope and Opportunities of Bioengineering and Biotechnology in Agriculture and Related Industries - APO (2015)

Scope and Opportunities of Bioengineering and Biotechnology in Agriculture and Related Industries - APO (2015) | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

p. 305-313: With Asia having some of the fastest-growing economies with over 60% of the world’s population, 34% of the world’s arable land, and 36% of the world’s water resources, the region’s need to overcome formidable challenges and improve its total agricultural production and agricultural productivity are urgent... 

 

Feeding and nourishing a larger, more urban, and increasingly affluent Asian population sustainably and equitably will be an unprecedented challenge in the coming years. It will require a more holistic approach to address agricultural production an

d productivity more effectively.

 

Increasing production of food, feed, and fiber through the use of modern biosciences and biotechnology is only one among many strategies needed to meet this challenge. Access to modern science and technology will need to be supported by more comprehensive policies on investment, regulations, and education. In addition, while rural areas currently hold most of the world’s poor and hungry, and will continue to do so for many years to come, the urban areas of Asia will require more attention and distinct focus from national governments... 

 

Increasing productivity is a development imperative, whether urban or rural, if more agricultural production is to be achieved with reduced arable land, labor, and water in Asia. And therein lies the huge potential for biotechnology as a “green” technology.

 

http://www.apo-tokyo.org/publications/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/Productivity-in-the-Asia-Pacific_Past-Present-and-Future-20151.pdf#page=320

 


Via Alexander J. Stein
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ComplexInsight's curator insight, October 26, 2015 4:03 PM

Having grown up  in a northumberland mining village in the north east of England, surrounded by farming and small woodlands - agriculture is something i think of intimately interwound with industry and how we live. If you grew up in a city - it can seem distant, but its always fundamental. If you grew up around farms - you know they are places of high and low tech. Strains and breeds are early forms of bio-engineering, agricultural equipment gives access to pragmatic engineering principles early on. In the coming decades advanced in bioengineering and biotech will increasingly be larger components of modern agriculture in order to meet increasing population pressures and demands generated by increased urban living. This report clearly helps identify the opportunities and possibilities and policy requirements that exist. If you are tracking the technology aspects of modern agriculture or interested in how agriculture will ahve to change to address increasing social needs - this report is well worth reading.

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Dealing with the rational fear about GMOs and global catastrophe

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Nassim Taleb says that GMOs could doom the planet. He’s right. And the same could be said about all agriculture.
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Should GMO drugs be perceived differently than GMO food? | Genetic Literacy Project

Should GMO drugs be perceived differently than GMO food? | Genetic Literacy Project | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

Should GMO drugs be perceived differently than transgenic food? Some anti-GMO activists say, ‘no,’ that anything derived from genetic modification should be rejected.

It’s abundantly clear that there is widespread support of transgenic healthcare therapies but far less so for genetic engineering in agriculture. As I’ve noted previously, public perception is divided on issues when emotion crowds the discussion. In cases where there is little patience for science to help the public decide, there tends to be almost no ambivalence in choosing a side. We have the so-called ‘bimodal distribution of public opinion’ where there are two sides, and not many in the middle. We see this not only in headlines but in pictures.

One example supporting this hypothesis can be found in the news explosion around the Ebola treatment, ZMapp, and its place in public perception compared with transgenic food. There was a global outcry to rush treatments (ZMapp in particular) to the market. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) gave support to fast-track it without the usual safety or efficacy tests having been completed, for example, as reflected in this headline:

Yet, while picketers in Africa were demanding treatments, picketers in the US were demanding that GM products be banned. They are determined to slow or even stop genetically-modified food from being further refined and developed. The venom against genetic modification is so strong that some supposedly mainstream anti-GMO activists–the Organic Consumers Association–even campaigned against the GMO Ebola drug on the grounds that the outbreak should have been addressed with “natural” treatments. Why this disconnect from science?

It seems the critical attribute is how far on the emotional see-saw one wants to be on the side of drug therapies versus food sources. In fact, to help clarify the situation for any reader, it should be noted that this is a bivariate problem (meaning there are opinions on both factors–GM foods and GM health therapies, and they don’t necessarily match–even from the same person), and so I have developed the matrix below to cover the possibilities in opinions:

On the x-axis is, moving from left to right, disfavor or favor of genetically-modified crops and food supplies; On the y-axis, moving from bottom to top, disfavor or favor of genetically-modified organisms (plants, bacterial, mammalian cells, etc.) for use in drug therapies for diseases. The bottom left quadrant represents disfavor of GM crops and GM drug therapies, and the top right represents favor of GM crops and GM drug therapies. In this two-way table, both polar decisions (no/no and yes/yes), and everything in-between (yes/no, no/yes) can be looked at to ask the following question:

What separates the decision to favor or disfavor?

Principally, there must be some distinction in the opinion-holders’ minds about why they are making the choices that they are. In consumer research, we call this anchoring, because it establishes the baseline stance from which all decisions about the topic use as a point of reference. For example, if it’s ok to be in the ‘top-left’ quadrant (favor GM therapies, disfavor GM food), why? It must be about how we decide.

We make decisions all the time about where to eat, what to eat, whether or not to take vitamins, how much to sleep, how often to drive, and what to do about our healthcare. Each of these is a decision founded in our individual assessments of risk and risk-based decision-making. For example, in his bookDo You Believe in Magic, Paul Offit, M.D. references the research underpinning echinacea; $130 million is spent on this herb in the United States every year for consumers hoping to bolster their health with it. But it is all a game of perception – After all was said and done studying echinacea, John Taylor and his team at the University of Washington in Seattle studied over 400 children with colds and gave half the group echinacea and half the group placebo. There was no difference in any measures of health or cold duration; The only difference was that the children in the echinacea group were more likely to develop a rash.

Another phenomenon to mention here is the ‘hot-hand fallacy,’ another place where human decision-making is (very) fallible: A majority of the population believes in winning ‘streaks’ and the ‘hot-hand’ when it comes to games of chance and sporting events (for example, that a casino table is ‘hot’ for a short time, or that a particular favorite player is more likely to score if he or she has just scored). However, the research tells a different tale – one of the population’s inability to accurately appraise random chance without finding patterns which don’t really exist (which Michael Shermer has called ‘patternicity’).

So not only do we often make decisions not based in grounded science or logic, but we’ll often choose one alternative over another for emotional reasons. The salient point here, though, is that a majority of the public favors transgenic technology to be used for therapies such as ZMapp to stem the Ebola crisis, and it seems that this includes a portion of overlap from those who otherwise reject the idea of GM foods. It seems then that this is an example of a risk-based decision, where the therapy for the emergent disease (acute treatment for Ebola) seems to present much greater benefit-to-risk than crops and foods which are modified to better meet certain demands (where maybe the benefit-to-risk profile seems less clear).

Let’s be clear: This is no ‘secret serum’—it’s an experimental therapy and its effects are similar to other antibodies already on the market.

Reductionism

If we look at some of the principal technologies used for transgenic plants for antibody therapies, we would see that they are the same technologies used in agriculture to modify food-based crops or animal products.

There are two major methods of inserting DNA into plants to have them produce disease treatment therapies. The first is by ballistic introduction of DNA into the plant: Metal particles are coated with the requisite DNA for transgenesis, then the plants are bombarded by these particles. The particles are halted mid-stream and the DNA is carried by its inertia into the plant cells, where it is incorporated by the plant cells and then replicated.

The other method is by taking advantage of highly-effective pathways Nature herself has already perfected for incorporating genetic material into plants: By specific viral targeting. In this way, viruses are used which are natural pathogens of the target plant, and insert copies of the requisite genome into the plant either directly, or often by infecting an intermediary microbe which then uses its DNA-splicing expertise to insert the genetic material into the plant. This occurs naturally in countless situations, including the tobacco mosaic virus (which is commonly used for the DNA splicing), agrobacterium—which is well-known for transferring DNA between itself and plants (causing crown gall disease), and so forth.

In fact, much of what we know about gene transfer and certain modes of viral function are due to studying the palette which Nature has provided us. Tobacco plants are commonly used for these research therapies because their biology is well-known, they’re well-characterized, and they grow quickly.

Effects of tobacco virus

Developing therapies from plants

Since I’ve addressed the ZMapp therapy and public perception to some degree, I’ll mention also how that therapy is refined for use: Three ‘humanized’ mouse antibodies are used (in the Ebola treatment specifically); Because mice are mammals, they can produce antibodies similar to what we humans produce. However, because it’s still a ‘non-human’ immune system producing them, there can be some rare adverse reactions to these, especially if used long-term for chronic therapy. In these cases, they ‘humanize’ the antibody by modifying the structure to even more closely match what we would make. This makes it more suitable for longer-term administration. These antibodies are targeted specifically to match only the target disease (in this case, the Ebola virus); they are so specific, that each antibody fits its target like a key to a specific lock. Antibody therapies such as this have had a tremendous track record of success treating very difficult diseases and those unresponsive to other therapies.

So far, the only drug treatment generated by genetically-modified plants (as opposed to bacteria or mammalian cells) which has been approved for use by the FDA is Elelyso (using a novel vector with carrot cells), used to treatGaucher’s disease – a rare disorder where lipids accumulate in cells and body organs, leading to failure and systemic disease.

Despite the claims by extremists on the anti-GMO fringe, there is little difference in the technologies or principles between GM foods and GM drugs. Handled wisely, genetic engineering can yield powerful advances for society. It seems that the measure of agreeableness of a paradigm is related to how well it suits current or emergent needs. And we can always check ourselves to see where we fit on the opinion matrix.

Ben Locwin, PhD, MBA is a contributor to the Genetic Literacy Project and is an author of a wide variety of scientific articles for books and magazines. He is also a researcher and consultant for a variety of industries including behavioral and psychological, food and nutrition, pharmaceutical, and academic. Follow him at @BenLocwin. 

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Time to transform the agriculture sector is now

Time to transform the agriculture sector is now | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it

For agriculture to make its rightful contribution to the development of Kenya, transforming smallholder farming from subsistence to an innovative, commercially oriented and modern sector is critical.

But this is only possible if farmers, producers, processors and marketers employ the most contemporary methods.

Drought and pests have adversely affected the productivity of maize, the staple food for more than 80 per cent of the population.

The problem of pest attack is further compounded by the high cost of, and occasional adulteration, of pesticides found in the market making them ineffective.

In Kenya, stem borers alone are known to reduce maize production by an average of 13 per cent or 400,000 tonnes, equivalent to the normal yearly quantity the country imports to meet recurrent deficits.

The good news is that it is possible to reverse the trend. Indeed, tripling national average yields of major crop and livestock production systems is easily achievable as demonstrated by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project. WEMA brings together seven partners including national agricultural research systems of Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda; the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and Monsanto.

For the last five years, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), together with national and international research organisations through the WEMA project, has been conducting trials on a genetically-modified maize that is resistant to stem borers. This Bt maize has the ability to protect itself from insect pests because it contains a gene derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacteria that is naturally present in soil and widely used as a biological pesticide by organic crop producers.

The Bt gene protects the plant from stem borers because it produces a protein that cannot be digested by the insects, but is harmless to humans.

In addition, the maize reduces the need for frequent spraying with expensive insecticide chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment.

Results from tests carried out in Kenya show that the WEMA Bt maize effectively controls stem borers without the need for insecticides.

Even better news is that the varieties also recorded a yield increase of 3.7 tonnes per hectare above the best commercial hybrid used in the trials.

Following successful confined field trials carried out by Kalro in Kenya, WEMA Project has gathered sufficient performance and safety data on Bt maize, and proceeded to file an application for consideration for approval for environmental release by the National Biosafety Authority.

If the authority grants approval for environmental release of Bt maize in Kenya, further trials will proceed in accordance with existing national policy, legislation, guidelines and procedures governing  variety testing, release and gazettement new plant varieties.

Dr Francis Nang’ayo is Senior Manager for Regulatory Affairs at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation

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BASF’s Crop Protection Products Offer Full Range Of Solutions

BASF's Joe Lara talks about innovative technologies such as Intrinsic Brand fungicides and Sultan miticide.
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Anti-GMO Activist Campaign is "Full of Errors, Fallacies, Misconceptions ... - Reason (blog)

Anti-GMO Activist Campaign is "Full of Errors, Fallacies, Misconceptions ... - Reason (blog) | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Slate article "Unhealthy Fixation" debunk activist campaign against GMOs.
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New Letters Added to the Genetic Alphabet - Quanta Magazine

New Letters Added to the Genetic Alphabet - Quanta Magazine | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Scientists hope that new genetic letters, created in the lab, will endow DNA with new powers.
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AgBiome, Genective team up to develop insect-resistant crops - Crop Protection News

AgBiome, Genective team up to develop insect-resistant crops - Crop Protection News | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
AgBiome, a leading agricultural research firm, and Genective, a top developer of biotechnology crops, said on Wednesday that the two companies have established a strategic partnership that will speed their development of insect-resistant innovation...
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How scary! An analysis of visual communication concerning genetically modifie organisms in Italy - Ventura & Frisio (2015) - Food Syst Dynam

In the economics literature many studies investigate the factors that drive public resistance: ethical concerns, low public trust in regulatory institution, risk misperception, absence of perceived benefits and media bias.

 

In particular, public attitudes and risk perception about agricultural biotechnology are proved to be influenced by press media communication. This paper aims at gaining insight into the visual communication to which Italian population is exposed about GMOs, in order to investigate if images could have contributed to shape their negative public perception.

 

 

A set of 500 images collected through Google search for “GMO” in Italy are classified considering fearful attributes (i.e. alteration of color, shape or size of plants or animals, mention to death or war, presence of DNA double helix or syringe) and an index that accounts for the scary impact of these images is built. Then the relationship between the index and a set of variables that refer to the context in which images appear is estimated.

 

Preliminary results reveal that the order of appearance of images negatively affect index, namely that the first (and most viewed) Google result pages contain the most frightful images. It suggests that Italian population is subject to overstated negative inputs about GMOs. In addition, it emerges that web contents that show positive or neutral GMO attitudes are barely accompanied with objective and balanced visual communication... 

 

http://centmapress.ilb.uni-bonn.de/ojs/index.php/proceedings/article/view/474

 


Via Alexander J. Stein
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Three years of field trials with N-efficient rice show big yield increases - agprofessional.com

Three years of field trials with N-efficient rice show big yield increases - agprofessional.com | Modern Agricultural Biotechnology | Scoop.it
Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., has joined with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to announce the completion of a third year of field trials of Nitrogen Use Efficient (NUE) rice.
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