GM with the 'wow' factor

January 2019

The next innovations in the fresh food sector promise to have a "wow factor": colour like you've never seen before, taste and smell to die for, a delightful texture, all contributing to a longer, healthier life for the consumer. If this isn't enough, add in enhanced storage and convenience, and even beneficial to the environment.

The health benefits stem from the extra, health-promoting red, blue and orange pigments these new foods will have, plus the wow factor which will make us eat more fresh fruit and veg. The environmental benefit comes from our resulting reduced consumption of environmentally unfriendly animal produce.

Are you impressed? GM Watch call it "shameless hype".

Cleaning-up the genome? Never!

January 2019

Dr. Gurian-Sherman* has made it clear that GM side-effects can never be eliminated.

Unintended effects of artificial DNA modification can arise in many way, for example:
  • The position of the forced change in the genome can disrupt the function of neighbouring DNA, and this in turn can disrupt multiple, interacting biochemical pathways. 
  • Gaps or DNA scrambling may arise in the plant's genome 
  • Extra DNA fragments can be scattered around in the genome 
  • During the transformation procedure, cells are grown in a culture flask outside the stabilising influence of the living whole-plant: they emerge full of genetic errors. 

Patent-unfriendly broccoli

January 2019

After a lot of moaning by food rights activists, the European Patent Office (EPA) reconsidered its ideas on the patenting of life, and in 2017 set new rules.

Following on from this (and a whole lot more moaning by food rights activists) the EPA revoked a patent it had granted five years previously on a new strain of broccoli.

The future of potatoes

December 2018

GM potatoes with a little extra something for everyone are wending their way into American supermarkets. To please the potato processors, these wondrous spuds don't get black spots when bruised [1]. To satisfy French fry aficionados, they don't turn brown when they're old and fried.

To coax consumers, GM relieves them of the dread threat of 'acrylamide' carcinogen in their fries [2]. To suit farmers, they promise blight-free crops. These spuds are very novel and very uniform. They come at a cost, and with more than a few risks [3].

Uncomfortable questions about GMOs

December 2018

Twenty years and two continents apart, two scientists sounded the same warning about the same GM crop. Both were mad-keen on the promises of genetic engineering, until they looked at the results of their own experiments and changed their minds. The crop which brought about this dawning was the potato [1].

In Scotland, 1998, Dr. Arpad Pusztai spoke out about the multiple adverse effects he saw in his laboratory rats fed GM spuds. In America, 2018, Dr. Caius Rommens reviewed his years of work in industry creating thousands of GMOs: he realised his "almost daily experience" was that "most GMO varieties were stunted, chlorotic (yellowed), mutated, or sterile, and many of them died quickly, like prematurely-born babies".

Rommens is now very clear that real scientists are people who love to study the natural world, not to modify it. Those who call themselves 'scientists' today spend their days staring at computer screens, generating and analysing numbers. Their focus is on imposing a controlled predictability on the capricious natural world so as to liberate society from the erratic forces of nature. Genetic engineering is not science, nor even a profession but "the expression of distorted mind-set".

Is Pandora a myth?

December 2018

'Pandora's Potatoes' might seem an odd name for a book examining the scientific reality of the GM potatoes now in American supermarkets. Its author, Caius Rommens, and creator of these very spuds, chose the name because, once he had detached himself from the biotech industry and reviewed his past work and the scientific literature, he identified concerns he simply hadn't been able to see before.

Primarily, he noticed the extent of unintended effects in his novel potatoes [1,2]. He realised his GM creations had hidden issues and, just like the contents of Pandora's Box (which should never have been opened), would unleash sickness, death and lots of unexpected evils in the world.

The second part of the book's title is even more intriguing: 'The Worst GMOs'.

Acrylamide in potatoes

December 2018

One of the hot issues in 2002 was the discovery of 'acrylamide' in food, especially in potatoes.

This wasn't good news because the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies acrylamide as Group 2A, 'probably carcinogenic to humans'. The main evidence for this is that, at high doses and in pure chemical form, acrylamide causes cancer in laboratory animals. It's linked to a whole stack of other toxic effects too, but it's the carcinogenic one that regulators struggle with most because of the difficulty in defining the actual risk and in setting a 'safe' dose.