EU struggling with genetically edited organisms (GEdOs)

February 2015


While the insertion of artificial genes into our food crops continues to raise safety issues, the next 'layer of technology to customise life' [1] promises to be as problematic. It also promises to be well-concealed. That's if the biotech industry can get away with it.

The up-and-coming thing in the world of biotech is 'gene editing'.

This involves a chemical tool designed to invade the genome, dock with a selected part of it, and make a change in the genome in a specific way (e.g. add or remove a section of DNA, or alter a bit of its code), after which the 'tool' is disassembled by the cell.

Needless to say, modifications which don't involve the old-style insertion of genes plus on/off-switches and markers etc, can be sold to the market as "basically comparable" to conventional breeding (Dupont Pioneer), or as natural mutation speeded up, or as like old-fashioned chemical- or radiation-induced mutagenesis but with precision ... in fact, just about anything but GM.

On this basis, one US seed company which nearly closed its biotech programme after a GM grass escaped disastrously into the wild during trials, now has "a stunning array of products that are not regulated" because they're "not" GM.

Bogus consensus on GMO safety

February 2015

Evidence-free claims that there is now a "consensus" on the safety of GMOs have been firmly quashed by a fully referenced, "objective analysis of the scientific literature".

The paper was prepared by 15 scientists, backed by a joint statement from over 300 accredited experts in science, medicine, sociology, law and risk assessment. It has been peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal.

As the authors point out, the science to date is clearly contradictory and gives no basis for any consensus. This isn't surprising because the research methods themselves are neither standardised nor agreed, the procedures in use are still not adequate, analysis and interpretation lack rigor allowing, for example, significant differences to be dismissed as "unimportant". An inherent bias is evident due to the constraints of limited independent funding, patents, and industry control over access to research materials and over publication. Fierce, defamatory responses to disturbing data, plus a failure to follow up scientific concerns, (and also manipulation of the media, for example see [1], [2],and [3]), have been employed to shore up the climate of complacency fostered by vested commercial and academic interests, and by regulators.

Besides the lack of consensus in the scientific literature, the authors point out the absence of epidemiological studies in human populations, the lack of united positive support from major medical associations (inluding Canada, UK and USA), and the use of politically-guided reports designed to promote GM.

Regarding the hundreds of studies claimed to "document the general safety and wholesomeness of GM foods and feeds", the authors highlight that few of these are toxicological investigations, many are too short to pick up anything more than the most acute toxic reaction, and any signs of toxicity have largely been dismissed without scientific grounds.

International agreements such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the UN Codex Alimentarius recognise the risks posed by GM crops and the unresolved state of existing scientific understanding.

In conclusion, the paper stresses the need for "strong scientific evidence on the long-term safety of GM crops and foods for human and animal health and the environment, obtained in a manner that is honest, ethical, rigorous, independent, transparent, and sufficiently diversified to compensate for bias."

OUR COMMENT

The only consensus possible is that the science on GM food and feed safety has gaps and is inconclusive.

How did such a patchy body of science manage to become a 'proof'' of GM safety?

In the case of the biotech industry and related vested interests it can only be wilful ignorance.

In the case of the regulators, who seem to be caught up in a current of industry spin designed to swamp any lone dissenting voice, it is ignorant wilfulness.

Next time you spot this silly lie echoing around the media, tell them that the GM debate is not over because there is no consensus on its safety. Send the editor Hillbeck's paper below and suggest that a little more properly researched and balanced journalism would be in order.


Background
[1] WESTMINSTER'S PRO- GM PUSH - January 2013
[2] WHEN NON-NEWS IS BAD NEWS - April 2013
[3] THE NEW YEAR GM PEP-TALK - February 2014

SOURCES
  • Angelika Hilbeck, et al., 2015, No scientific consensus on GMO safety, Environmental Sciences Europe, http://dx.doi.org/10/1186/s12302-14-0034-1
  • Clair Robinson, Who says GMOs are safe? And who says they're not? Beyond GM, 8.12.14

Real-life harm from eating GMOs

February 2015



Another piece of unique and very disquieting science was published late in 2014.

The study modelled a real-life situation in which the subjects were eating an unknown mixture of all the GM foods on the market. It was designed to investigate how a practical and relevant post-marketing safety monitoring scheme might be structured.

Genetically modified humans?

February 2015


All the myths and assumptions of a "vanishingly small" risk of horizontal gene transfer from GM food into humans have now been blown apart.

In the prevailing culture of denial, regulators and industry have peddled a science-free rationale on how impossible any harm from horizontal gene transfer is.

But now we know:
  • DNA in food is not digested down to an amorphous mix of its nucleic-acid subunits in the gut: it can survive in strands (up to and including as big as genes) which can, and do, pass into the body
  • Dietary DNA can circulate to all tissues, where it can be incorporated into the genome if it has even a short sequence similar to the genome of the consuming organism
  • Most DNA isn't a gene which codes for protein but is regulatory in nature and highly active in altering gene function; unlike genes, such DNA can consist of very short sequences.
  • Some DNA is naturally prone to mutation and change
  • Some DNA is mobile and can jump from one location in the genome to another, or into another genome
The pseudo-science which claims that the DNA carefully crafted by human hand to work in soya or maize couldn't possibly affect human consumers is definitely wrong in the case of 80% of currently commercialised GM crops. And possibly in all of them.

We're dead right

February 2015
A comment made on one of our articles [1] suggested that "No study has ever found any health problems with glyphosate (used for 40 years) that has stood up to peer review." And that we were "dead wrong".

This prompted us to quantify the quoted "mounting" "evidence that the herbicide Roundup (with active ingredient glyphosate) is far from physiologically inert".

By "evidence" of physiological effects caused by Roundup, we mean the 30 published, peer-reviewed studies we have on file, to which can be added a further five mentioned by the Institute of Science in Society in its latest (2015) review of Roundup safety, and a further five mentioned in a 1995 review by Caroline Cox. This list of 40 papers is certainly not exhaustive, but it provides a body of corroborating evidence.

By "mounting" evidence, we mean that published papers indicating harmful effects of glyphosate (in any form) are mushrooming like this:



GMOs in Europe - 2015

February 2015
On 13th January 2015, the European Parliament adopted a game-changing new Directive on the "renationalisation of GMO authorisation procedures".

The 'game-change' is that the Directive has been crafted to open the flood gates to GM authorisations in Europe. How the game was changed seems to have been a sleight-of-hand which substituted biotech industry interests for those originally put forward.

Corinne Lepage's* proposal to tighten GMO regulations and give EU countries the freedom to declare a moratorium on GM received a positive response in its first reading by the European Parliament.

No so smart Smartstax

January 2015
Image © Greenpeace

Agapito-Tenfen et al.'s study looking at the effects of breeding GM plants together to stack multiple artificial DNA constructs into one crop [1] has thrown a very uncomfortable shadow over Monsanto's 'SmartStax' maize.

Indications from this study are that, even with only two transformation events stacked, there's reduced expression of the novel genes and significant changes in biochemical pathways such as energy-production, detoxification, cellular processes, genetic information processing, and others. If this degree of perturbation happens when only two events are stacked, what is happening in SmartStax which has eight events stacked?