GM sugarcane

July 2017

Brazil has been a major supplier of non-GM soya to Europe. While huge tracts are planted with GM soya, the country has a very large land area and is confident it can keep GM and non-GM separate.

Last year, saw reductions in several GM-growing areas around the world: two countries (Romania and Burkino Faso) discontinued GM agriculture, India dropped GM cotton cultivation due to pest problems, one of China's biggest provinces implemented a 5-year ban on growing, processing and selling GM crops, Chinese GM cotton planting dropped 24%, while Argentina moved to crop diversification and away from GM. However, globally, the hectares planted to GM crops continue to edge upwards because the reductions have been offset by continuing increases in North and South America where 90% of GM plantings take place.

In Brazil there has been a rise in GM crop area, most of which will be soya, accompanied by reports of the deforestation of nearly 2 million acres of the Brazilian Amazon, the first in a decade.

This renewed environmental destruction may portend something more ominous than just more GM soya.

Regulators in Brazil have approved the commercial use of GM sugarcane.

A GM cure for toxic maize

July 2017

Each year, some 16 million tons of maize are lost globally to contamination by 'aflatoxins' after infection by some species of Aspergillus fungus.

In the US alone, wastage due to aflatoxins is estimated to cost agriculture $270 million per annum. Added to this is the expense of essential regulation for safety, because some forms of aflatoxin are the most potent toxins on the planet.

The substance produced by Aspergillus isn't, in itself, harmful. Ironically, when it reaches the liver, the main organ of detoxification, aflatoxins are transformed into derivatives which are toxic at levels of very few parts per billion. At very high doses, aflatoxins can cause acute liver damage and death. More usually however, their effects are chronic. They have been linked to birth defects, impaired immune system and, in the young, stunted growth.

Aflatoxins also have the sinister ability to target DNA and, in particular, attack a specific gene which protects against cancer. The result is liver cancer.

GM trees on the march

July 2017

GM trees are coming on in leaps and bounds.  The fruit of the Arctic Apple-tree is making its appearance in American Midwest stores [1], but the big GM tree event is 'short-rotation woody crops'.

Short-rotation woody crops are fast growing trees which can be harvested in just a few years for industrial purposes such as paper and biofuels.  Eucalyptus, which escaped from its native Australia when Captain Cook arrived there, has become one such major crop since the 19th Century.  Because different species are adaptable to many local climates, plantations are now found on every continent.  The next wave, just beginning to gain momentum, is GM eucalyptus.

Convenient GM 'Arctic' apples

July 2017

Consumers in the US Midwest may now be finding a new convenience product in their grocery stores: convenient 10oz packs of conveniently sliced apples which conveniently don't turn brown and are a convenient snack.

The apples carry an inconvenient label consisting of a humanly indecipherable barcode which consumers will inconveniently have to scan with their smartphone to find out what in God's name they're buying.

Stirring the pot

July 2017

People use catering establishments a lot in the UK. A recent survey by Beyond GM found that 87% of respondents frequented table service restaurants, around half used pubs, coffee-shops and take-aways, while a third or so ate food in hotels, from street stalls and home deliveries, and a smaller proportion regularly used workplace or school cafeterias.

Local catering is clearly a booming business and, as one respondent said, this puts them "at the forefront" in setting and maintaining food quality standards.

Let's campaign

July 2017

Now that you have a newly-elected representative in Government, just burning with enthusiasm to serve you, it's a good time to speak out.

The Great Brexit Bungle could have many outcomes damaging to the quality of your food and your long-term health. All the existing EU food laws on GMOs might remain intact. However, it seems more likely we'll find ourselves with the GM products of US light-touch regulation on our plate and not a label in sight. Or, we could end up in a limbo into which any country will be able to dump surplus GM stuff no one else wants.