GMO Feeding Study May Be Right after All
Remember Professor Giles-Eric Seralini and his research team at the University of Caan in France? They provided pictures of rats fed Monsanto GMO corn saturated with Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer. And they almost had their reputations destroyed as a result. Well, Paul Fassa has done his homework and brings us up-to-date on the situation through his blog at REALfarmacy.com. Here’s his story:
Seralini’s study discovered that rats fed GMOs developed tumors and died prematurely. But that wasn’t the purpose of their study. It was set up to examine the long term toxicity potential of eating GMO corn along with its associated exposure to Roundup.
After Seralini’s long term toxicity study results were publicized, with displays of rats showing huge tumors, a tsunami of outrage from pro-GMO scientists and shill journalists got favorable mainstream media (MSM) press.
The hundreds of scientists who defended Seralini’s work were mostly ignored. Many fence sitters were left confused and willing to side with the barking dogs of the biotechnology industry.
This highly publicized media attack on Seralini and his team was the air and sea attack to soften the defense of the tiny GMO truther island. Then the actual landing attack against that island’s real science was embarked by surreptitiously setting up former Monsanto scientist Richard E. Goodman in a newly created biotech editorial position at the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), an Elsevier publication.
That’s the journal where Seralini’s study, “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” had been originally peer reviewed and posted. With Goodman steering the landing craft, the editor-in-chief of FCT, Wallace Hayes, removed Seralini’s paper from the journal in 2013, a full year after it was initially peer reviewed and published.
Hayes admitted the study was not fraudulent or inaccurate, but explained that it was inconclusive. Some defending scientists jumped on that one, explaining that peer reviewed published studies are often inconclusive, recommending “further studies.”
Around that same time a Brazilian study proving Monsanto’s Bt corn insecticide starter genes do not disintegrate in mammalian stomachs as claimed by Monsanto, but survive intact to harm mammals’ blood cells was also pulled from FCT.
That study has now been published in another journal. By the way, Seralini’s study was also soon re-published in 2014 by another journal far removed from Monsanto’s invaders: Environmental Sciences Europe.
And by the way again, after some serious howling from international scientists directed at the FCT journal, here’s a 26 February, 2015, update from Scientists for Global Responsibility:
Critical changes have this year been made at the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicolgy, from which the Editor-in-Chief A. Wallace Hayes retracted the important paper by the Seralini team. The Editorial Board of the journal now has a new Editor-in-Chief, José L. Domingo, who has published papers showing that safety of GM crops is not an established fact; and the Editorial Board no longer includes Richard Goodman, the ex-Monsanto employee who became Associate Editor for Biotechnology not long before the Seralini paper was retracted.
Seralini and his research team weren’t completely satisfied with getting their studies republished and defending their work to a mostly uninterested mainstream media. They formed a group called CRIIGEN, the acronym for Comité de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur le Génie Génétique, or Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering, and fought back.
Keep in mind the attacks on Seralini et al focused on the tumors, which had a high visual media impact. But Seralini and team weren’t testing for cancerous effects primarily. Their toxicity analysis focused on long term effects on liver and kidney health, where they did find indisputable evidence of gross harm.
Professor Seralini’s study was a chronic toxicity study, not a full-scale carcinogenicity study. Therefore he conservatively did not do a statistical analysis of the tumors and mortality findings. Instead he simply reported them, without drawing definitive conclusions.
This was in line with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) chronic toxicity protocol, which requires that any “lesions,” including tumors observed, are recorded.
So Seralini and CRIIGEN conspired to attack rather than just defend, which they did with support from many international scientists. They successfully challenged Marianne Magazine and its featured journalist Jean-Claude Jaillet for publicly claiming in 2012 that Seralini and his team were guilty of “scientific fraud in which the methodology served to reinforce predetermined results.”
That same article also reported “researchers around the world” had voiced “harsh words” about Seralini’s long term (two years) toxicity research on rats fed GMO Roundup-tolerant corn. Seralini and CRIIGEN, with the assistance of public attorneys, called notaires in France, Bernard Dartevelle and Cindy Gay, won their suit against Marianne Magazine.
Then after a three year investigation ending on the 25th of November 2015, the High Court of Paris indicted Marc Fellous, one of those charged in the original libel case earlier. He just happened to be the chairman of France’s Biomolecular Engineering Commission who had rubber stamped many genetically modified products for consumption.
Details haven’t been publicly revealed, but apparently Fellous has been charged with forgery and the use of forgery, using a scientist’s signature to “prove” Seralini and company were wrong about their study that concluded that Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn was not safe for consumption until further study was undertaken. Final judgement and sentencing is expected by early 2017.
The court’s investigation discovered that American journalist Henry Miller via notoriously pro-GMO Forbes Magazine had initiated the libelous attacks. This Henry Miller is one of those mercenary attack hacks who has a history of working for industries that are dangerous to the health and welfare of humanity and the planet, including the tobacco industry.
Conclusion: Attacking the lying pro-GMO crowd and fraudulent biotech industry through the court system may be more effective in Europe than here in the States, but it may be the only way to go against all things considered GMO.
ORGANIC STANDARDS TO EXCLUDE NEXT GENERATION GMO INGREDIENTS
The National Organic Standards Board has voted unanimously to update U.S. organic standards to exclude ingredients derived from next generation genetic engineering and gene editing, Friends of the Earth reports.
This recommendation to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program will ensure that ingredients derived from new genetic engineering techniques, including synthetic biology, will not be allowed in the production or final product of foods and beverages that are certified organic. Synthetic biology is a new set of genetic engineering techniques that include using synthetic DNA to re-engineer organisms to produce substances they would not normally produce or to edit DNA so as to silence the expression of certain traits.
“The Board’s hard-fought proactive stance on synthetic biology will both help preserve the integrity of organic standards and raise awareness about this virtually unregulated and unlabeled form of genetic engineering,” said Dana Perls, food and technology policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “It’s critical that organic standards treat new types of genetic engineering that are rapidly entering our food and consumer products as rigorously as the first generation of GMOs.”
Like “traditional” GMOs, synthetic biology ingredients are entering food and consumer products in absence of adequate health and environmental safety assessment, oversight and labeling. Many are being falsely marketed as “natural.” Products in development include synthetic stevia, saffron, coconut and cacao, meant to replace plant-based ingredients, many of which are currently produced by small farmers in the Global South. There is increasing concern that these farmers’ livelihoods may be displaced by synthetic biology ingredients. Other products include gene-silenced apples, CRISPR waxy corn, and Cibus Canola oil, engineered with gene editing techniques.
“The National Organic Standards Board has made clear that all kinds of genetic engineering are to be excluded from ‘organic.’ The public expects that government to actually assess the new foods that it is permitting on the market,” said Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst, Center for Food Safety. “Unfortunately, the government has failed to update its regulations to adequately assess these new kinds of genetic engineering. When the USDA approves that NOSB recommendations, consumers who want to avoid GMOs will be able to use the Organic Seal to know that the product is not a GMO.”
The Board’s announcement follows a growing trend of companies stating that they will not use ingredients produced via synthetic biology. The Non-GMO Project, North America’s only third party verification program for non-GMO food and products, recently updated its standards so as to include synthetic biology and new gene editing techniques. Companies such as Ben and Jerry’s (BJICA: US), Three Twins Ice Cream, Straus Family Creamery, Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss, Nestlé (NSRGY: OTC US), and General Mills (NYSE: GIS) have committed to “…not source vanilla flavor produced through synthetic biology,” a product that is designed to replace natural vanillin flavoring from vanilla beans. Synthetic biology vanilla flavoring, introduced by Evolva (SWX: EVE) and International Flavors and Fragrances (NYSE: IFF) in 2014, is the first major synthetic biology ingredient to enter food and beverages, marketed as “natural vanillin.” Other companies that have pledged to avoid synthetic biology ingredients entirely include Nutiva and Dr. Bronner’s.
Synthetic biology employs a new set of genetic engineering techniques that involve artificially constructing or “editing” genetic material such as DNA in order to create new forms of life, or to attempt to “reprogram” existing organisms. Despite growing concerns about the possible impacts of synthetic biology organisms on human health and the environment and a lack of independent safety assessment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed synthetic biology vanilla, DuPont’s CRISPR waxy corn and other similarly created food and cosmetic ingredients to enter the market without regulation. Existing regulations that identify GE crops and food ingredients as “Generally Regarded As Safe” use an outdated process with minimal testing requirements that rely on companies to self-evaluate the safety of their products.
IMPROVING PLANT GROWTH BY IMPROVING PHOTOSYNTHESIS
A decade ago, The New York Times reports, agricultural scientists at the University of Illinois suggested a bold approach to improve the food supply: tinker with photosynthesis, the chemical reaction powering nearly all life on Earth.
The idea was greeted skeptically in scientific circles and ignored by funding agencies. But one outfit with deep pockets, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, eventually paid attention, hoping the research might help alleviate global poverty.
Now, after several years of work funded by the foundation, the scientists are reporting a remarkable result.
Using genetic engineering techniques to alter photosynthesis, they increased the productivity of a test plant — tobacco — by as much as 20 percent, they said Thursday in a study published by the journal Science. That is a huge number, given that plant breeders struggle to eke out gains of 1 or 2 percent with more conventional approaches.
The scientists have no interest in increasing the production of tobacco; their plan is to try the same alterations in food crops, and one of the leaders of the work believes production gains of 50 percent or more may ultimately be achievable. If that prediction is borne out in further research — it could take a decade, if not longer, to know for sure — the result might be nothing less than a transformation of global agriculture.
The findings could also intensify the political struggle over genetic engineering of the food supply. Some groups oppose it, arguing that researchers are playing God by moving genes from one species to another. That argument has gained some traction with the public, in part because the benefits of gene-altered crops have so far been modest at best.
But gains of 40 or 50 percent in food production would be an entirely different matter, potentially offering enormous benefits for the world’s poorest people, many of them farmers working small plots of land in the developing world.
“We’re here because we want to alleviate poverty,” said Katherine Kahn, the officer at the Gates Foundation overseeing the grant for the Illinois research. “What is it the farmers need, and how can we help them get there?”
One of the leaders of the research, Stephen P. Long, a crop scientist who holds appointments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at Lancaster University in England, emphasized in an interview that a long road lay ahead before any results from the work might reach farmers’ fields.
But Dr. Long is also convinced that genetic engineering could ultimately lead to what he called a “second Green Revolution” that would produce huge gains in food production, like the original Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which transferred advanced agricultural techniques to some developing countries and led to reductions in world hunger.
The research involves photosynthesis, in which plants use carbon dioxide from the air and energy from sunlight to form new, energy-rich carbohydrates. These compounds are, in turn, the basic energy supply for almost all animal cells, including those of humans. The mathematical description of photosynthesis is sometimes billed as “the equation that powers the world.”
For a decade, Dr. Long had argued that photosynthesis was not actually very efficient. In the course of evolution, several experts said, Mother Nature had focused on the survival and reproduction of plants, not on putting out the maximum amount of seeds or fruits for humans to come along and pick.
Dr. Long thought crop yields might be improved by certain genetic changes. Other scientists doubted it would work, but with the Science paper, Dr. Long and his collaborator — Krishna K. Niyogi, who holds appointments at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — have gone a long way toward proving their point.
Much of the work at the University of Illinois was carried out by two young researchers from abroad who hold positions in Dr. Long’s laboratory, Johannes Kromdijk of the Netherlands and Katarzyna Glowacka of Poland.
No one plans to eat tobacco, of course, nor does the Gates Foundation have any interest in increasing the production of that health-damaging crop. But the researchers used it because tobacco is a particularly fast and easy plant in which to try new genetic alterations to see how well they work.
In a recent interview here, Dr. Kromdijk and Dr. Glowacka showed off tiny tobacco plants incorporating the genetic changes and described their aspirations.
“We hope it translates into food crops in the way we’ve shown in tobacco,” Dr. Kromdijk said. “Of course, you only know when you actually try it.”
In the initial work, the researchers transferred genes from a common laboratory plant, known as thale cress or mouse-ear cress, into strains of tobacco. The effect was not to introduce alien substances, but rather to increase the level of certain proteins that already existed in tobacco.
When plants receive direct sunlight, they are often getting more energy than they can use, and they activate a mechanism that helps them shed it as heat — while slowing carbohydrate production. The genetic changes the researchers introduced help the plant turn that mechanism off faster once the excessive sunlight ends, so that the machinery of photosynthesis can get back more quickly to maximal production of carbohydrates.
It is a bit like a factory worker taking a shorter coffee break before getting back to the assembly line. But the effect on the overall growth of the tobacco plants was surprisingly large.
When the scientists grew the newly created plants in fields at the University of Illinois, they achieved yield increases of 13.5 percent in one strain, 19 percent in a second and 20 percent in a third, over normal tobacco plants grown for comparison.
Because the machinery of photosynthesis in many of the world’s food crops is identical to that of tobacco, theory suggests that a comparable manipulation of those crops should increase production. Work is planned to test that in crops that are especially important as dietary staples in Africa, like cowpeas, rice and cassava.
Two outside experts not involved in the research both used the word “exciting” to describe it. But they emphasized that the researchers had not yet proved that the food supply could be increased.
“How does it look in rice or corn or wheat or sugar beets?” said L. Val Giddings, a senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington and a longtime advocate of gene-altered crops. “You’ve got to get it into a handful of the important crops before you can show this is real and it’s going to have a huge impact. We are not there yet.”
Barry D. Bruce of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, who studies photosynthesis, pointed out that the genetic alteration might behave differently in crops where only parts of the plant, such as seeds or fruits, are harvested. In tobacco, by contrast, the entire aboveground plant is harvested — Dr. Bruce called it “a leafy green plant used for cigars!”
Dr. Bruce also noted that, now that the principle has been established, it might be possible to find plant varieties with the desired traits and introduce the changes into crops by conventional breeding, rather than by genetic engineering. Dr. Long and his group agreed this might be possible.
The genetic engineering approach, if it works, may well be used in commercial seeds produced by Western agricultural companies. One of them, Syngenta, has already signed a deal to get a first look at the results. But the Gates Foundation is determined to see the technology, assuming its early promise is borne out, make its way to African farmers at low cost.
The work is, in part, an effort to secure the food supply against the possible effects of future climate change. If rising global temperatures cut the production of food, human society could be destabilized, but more efficient crop plants could potentially make the food system more resilient, Dr. Long said.
“We’re in a year when commodity prices are very low, and people are saying the world doesn’t need more food,” Dr. Long said. “But if we don’t do this now, we may not have it when we really need it.”
Okay—this is a very nice summary of the work to date. But several things.
If the plants to be transformed into super photo synthesizers are to be eaten by human beings, health safety tests would have to be performed. This is especially important because of the falsehoods present in this article. To wit, this paragraph: “But Dr. Long is also convinced that genetic engineering could ultimately lead to what he called a ‘second Green Revolution’ that would produce huge gains in food production, like the original Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which transferred advanced agricultural techniques to some developing countries and led to reductions in world hunger.”
That Green Revolution “transferred advanced agricultural techniques to some developing countries,” but what that meant was that indigenous agriculture—the inherent knowledge of the people—was brushed aside so that modern agriculture, with its chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and so on, could replace it, with millions of poor people thrown into servitude to Big Ag from America. In the final analysis, that first Green revolution was a total failure and disaster for the indigenous people, and a temporary source of money for Big Ag.
I think we’ll soon see that Monsanto and its allies will be rebranding the old Green Revolution agriculture as “American agriculture,” as the Organic Consumers Association has suggested. Once Big Ag becomes “American agriculture,” then the people who oppose it become, by default, “anti-American,” nicht Wahr?