Poisoning our great-grandchildren?

November 2018
Disturbed by the higher incidence of birth defects he observed after moving to a mid-west farming state, one US paediatrician decided to investigate.  His research homed in on two of the most heavily used herbicides in the state: atrazine and glyphosate.  Atrazine is used on corn and soya crops, and has a habit of ending up in drinking water*.  Glyphosate is used on most GM corn and GM soya and has a habit of ending up everywhere [1].

So far, studies on humans have shown that if you plot the levels of atrazine in drinking water and birth defects, they fit each other "like a hat".  At the same time, glyphosate has been found in the body of "virtually every pregnant mother" tested in the state, and has been linked to shortened pregnancy [2].

Looking at rat experiments carried out in the US (atrazine) and Argentina (glyphosate), things become scary. 

Could GM fish oil wreck the environment?

November 2018

Concerns about eating salmon stuffed with GM omega-3 oils may be over-blown [1], but the risks to the environment are very real.

GM veggie oil for fish

November 2018

The earliest suggestions that certain 'fatty acids' (the building block of oils) might be, like vitamins, vital to health in small quantities were ridiculed by the scientific establishment: oils were viewed as simply a concentrated source of energy for the body and devoid of any role in health promotion.

Science has moved a long way since then: fatty acids have been implicated in the healthy function and development of cells and tissues at every stage of life.  Two fatty acids in particular, 'EPA' and 'DHA' omega-3s*, are the subject of an "impressive documentation ... related to health benefits” with special reference to the heart and cardiovascular system.  Despite this, "the cellular and molecular mechanisms for (EPA and DHA) action are still insufficiently understood" (Gil). 

Golden Rice: a new definition of precision

October 2018

Two years ago, a group of Nobel laureates published a letter in support of "Precision Agriculture (GMOs)", or more specifically, Golden Rice to combat vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in Africa and Asia.

This begs the question, what's so precise about GMOs, or more specifically Golden Rice?

Golden Rice: a curious sort of safety evaluation

October 2018

Project 'GM Golden Rice' was embarked on over 20 years ago to "reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia".

Despite all these years of development, Golden Rice has still not been tested to see if it can alleviate VAD. Nowhere has it received the appropriate regulatory authorisation or institutional review board clearances, nor authorisation for unconfined environmental release. In short, GM vitamin A-enriched rice hasn't reached the starting line.

Curiously, however, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) now developing Golden Rice has asked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Food Safety Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), and Health Canada for an opinion on the GM rice.

Since Golden Rice is clearly not intended for cultivation or consumption in any of these areas, why start by seek confirmation of its acceptability there?

Novel golden substances

October 2018

Forcing rice to produce GM carotene (vitamin A precursor), a substance with no role in the grains of the plant, has long posed safety questions.

The genes to generate carotene are put into 'Golden Rice' to create a bio-fortified staple food for areas in Africa and Asia where vitamin A deficiency ('VAD') is all too common.

Because of the unpredictable nature of GM plants, and because rice grains aren't adapted to manufacture or store carotene, and because vitamin A-related substances are highly biologically active (see Note), Golden Rice could contain novel harmful elements, especially to the young.

USA missing the main markets

October 2018

America has been gung-ho about declaring gene-edited plants somehow not really GM, paving the way for the new-GM crops now lining up for entry to the US food market [1,2].

The back-drop to this is interesting.