Biotechnology

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GMO Skepti-Forum has discussions of specifically biotechnology issues.

Food and Farm Discussion Lab also has some discussions of biotech issues.

Relevance to Sustainability and Climate Change

The IPCC's 5th Assessment Report considers that the Agriculture sector can "Enhance drought and pest resistance; enhance yields" using "Biotechnology and genetically modified crops", with the Real or perceived trade-off of "Perceived risk to public health and safety; ecological risks associated with introduction of new genetic variants to natural environments". Table 4.3

Genetic Engineering

GMO Compass

various info on GM

Organic GMOs Could Be The Future of Food — If We Let Them

In Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food, Ronald and Adamchak argue that genetic engineering can help “develop biologically-oriented, sophisticated, and elegant approaches to address agricultural problems” and that “to maximize the benefit of GE [genetically engineered] plants, they would best be integrated into an organic farming system.” Organic farming strives to keep crop yields high without ruining the environment or sacrificing the health of people and animals. To accomplish this, it shuns many of conventional farming’s practices — synthetic chemicals and fertilizers, heavy tilling, monoculture — in favor of ecologically sound strategies, such as planting a high diversity of crops and rotating them frequently so pests do not have a chance to establish themselves. In sum, Adamchak writes, organic farming is “better farming through biology.” And that is exactly what genetic engineering enables, too.

seed saving / technology agreements

NO, FARMERS DON’T WANT TO SAVE SEEDS Amanda; The Farmer's Daughter USA; 23 Feb 2016

environmental effects

GMOs and the environment Iida Ruishalme; Thoughtscapism; 22 Mar 2015

Many people are worried about the impact GMOs could have on the environment. That’s a reasonable concern. Are GMOs increasing the profits of farmers and biotech companies at the expense of the environment? As I have learned more about biotechnology and agriculture, contrary to popular fear, I have found that there is actually no scientific evidence of harm from GMOs – but it doesn’t stop there. Conversely, I have learned that there are several environmental benefits of biotechnology.

GMO rice dramatically reduces farm greenhouse gas emissions James Conca; Genetic Literacy Project; 2 Dec 2015

New Variety Of Rice Fights Global Warming And Global Hunger James Conca; Forbes; 30 Nov 2015

A slight change in a single gene of rice can avoid the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions each year as all the wind turbines in the world, the same as 15 nuclear power plants. Work led by Dr. Christer Jansson at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that transferring one gene from barley to rice lowered the methane (CH4 or natural gas) emissions from rice paddies to almost zero.

Monsanto Killing DuPont Insecticide Sales With New Soybeans Jack Kaskey; Bloomberg; 6 Apr 2016

Monsanto Co.’s new Intacta soybeans are not only killing bugs on Brazilian farms. They’re crushing demand for insecticides made by competitors DuPont Co. and FMC Corp.

Benbrook

Charles Benbrook: Former Washington State adjunct consultant for organic industry Genetic Literacy Project; 8 Feb 2016

Charles “Chuck” Benbrook (born 1949) is an organic proponent, organic industry consultant and paid “expert witness”[1] on pesticide and GMO-related lawsuits,[2] Benbrook is trained as an agricultural economist. He has developed analytical systems he uses to quantify food quality and safety, and the impacts of agricultural technology and policy. He has re-analyzed government reports to suggest that there are high risks associated with GMOs, pesticide use and residue levels.
Benbrook was formerly the research director of The Organic Center, which is funded by the organic industry and is now officially part of the Organic Trade Association. His three year affiliation with the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR) at Washington State University (WSU), which was funded entirely by organic industry contributions (see below), ended on May 15, 2015 when his contract was not extended. He is now no longer with CSANR.
A WSU administrator wrote in an August 2015 email that “he [Benbrook] is no longer affiliated with WSU”. However, Benbrook emailed the Genetic Literacy Project on August 20 claiming after his relationship with CSANR was severed, he retained the position of “adjunct” professor at the Department of Crops and Soils. However, that appears not be true. The department will not confirm his position and as of August 30, Benbrook’s current and former association with the university has been purged from the university’s databank.
Until recently, and after he was severed from WSU, Benbrook had represented himself as a “research professor.” He continues to be misrepresented as a “research professor” by reporters, such as by Carey Gillam at Reuters in an August 19 story on Benbrook’s New England Journal of Medicine co-authored commentary on GMOs, and on websites, including Wikipedia. Benbrook has publicly maintained, including in COI statements to the NEJM, that he has no conflicts of interests despite extensive documentation that his entire research efforts at WSU were 100 percent funded by the organic industry (not disclosed to NEJM, see below, Misrepresentations, for Benbrook’s misrepresentations about his employment situation and in Conflict of Interest representations to NEJM) and that he was and is a paid consultant for organic industry lobby groups and anti-GMO organizations.
The New York Times has released a trove of Benbrook’s emails secured in a FOIA request, documenting his organic industry funding and his close ties to anti-GMO activists and journalists, including Robyn O’Brien, who bills herself as the food world’s Erin Brokovich.
A separate FOIA led to the release of more of Benbrook’s emails, available here, which reaffirms his close ties to the industry that has bankrolled him for more than a decade. It includes his demands for financial support for ‘research on request.’ The emails also reveal the close ties of Benbrook and other anti-GMO campaigners, such as the GMO labeling lobbyists, with journalists unstintingly critical of GMOs, such as Michael Pollan and Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott, who appear to coordinate their article strategies and Internet presence with notable advocacy groups and quack alternative health providers.

Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years Charles M Benbrook; Environmental Sciences Europe; 28 Sep 2012

Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%. The magnitude of increases in herbicide use on herbicide-resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Scientists challenge organic backer Benbrook claims that GM crops increase pesticide spraying Jon Entine; Genetic Literacy Project; 12 Oct 2012

Noted organic scientist Charles Benbrook of the University of Washington recently released a summary of his published study assessing the use of pesticides since the introduction of GM crops in the 1990s. A fierce and respected critic of GM technology, Benbrook claims his data shows that pesticide use has gone up in the US over that time.

safety

GMO: What is the independent scientific consensus? Genetic Literacy Project

You trust the national and international science organizations that have stated human-caused climate change is a fact. These statements are issued based on thoroughly scrutinized independent expert reviews of hundreds or thousands of scientific papers, with due attention paid to potential bias. The organizations have stood by their statements in the light of further evidence, which has become only more supportive.
As detailed below, these organizations that you trust agree that climate change is real and alarming, and also that GMOs are safe for our health and for the environment. Their statements are careful, nuanced, and unbiased. For example, they point out that RoundUp herbicide tolerance in weeds is currently a problem, and encourage diversifying agricultural approaches (including alternative GMOs) to solve it. They agree that GMOs are not remotely the whole solution to improving the global food supply, although they can be an important part of it, as can organic methods. (Organic GMO anyone?) They agree that safe and beneficial GMOs should be made available at low or zero cost to developing nations. They agree that many herbicides and insecticides have toxic effects. All of these points run counter to Monsanto’s interests; these organizations make these claims for the same reason they make all their claims: because the science supports them.

More than 275 organizations and scientific institutions support the safety of GM crops Sí Quiero Transgénicos; 25 May 2016

Currently there is a social and political controversy about the safety of foods produced from genetically modified (GM) crops, however, in the scientific community there is no dispute or controversy regarding the safety of these crops. To date, more than 2000 scientific studies have assessed the safety of these crops in terms of human health and environmental impact. These studies together with several reviews performed on a case by case from regulatory agencies around the world, have enabled a solid and clear scientific consensus: GM crops have no more risk than those that have been developed by conventional breeding techniques. This document brings together the public statements of organizations and scientific institutions that adhere to this consensus. I made an update based on this document from ChileBio that include 40 official documents representing about 190 institutions. The update shows that 276 scientific institutions and organizations recognize the safety of GM crops and their potential benefits. Interestingly a large part of these institutions are located in Europe, the continent that has put more obstacles to the commercialization of these crops. On the other hand, the countries with most organizations in favor of GM crops are United Kingdom (33), United States (24), Italy (23), Spain (16) and Germany (11).

SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS ON GMO SAFETY AND CLIMATE CHANGE THE ORIGINAL SKEPTICAL RAPTOR; 8 Jul 2015

The case of the poison potato MAGGIE KOERTH-BAKER; Boing-Boing; 25 Mar 2013

The Lenape potato, developed in the 1960s for the snack business, made a damn fine potato chip. Unfortunately, it was also kind of toxic.

GMOs Have "This One Weird Trick" for Eliminating Dangerous Mycotoxins Elizabeth Held; Food Insight; 28 Mar 2016

Biotech crops have dramatically reduced the prevalence of a toxic substance known as a mycotoxin often found on crops, which can be dangerous for people who eat it. Mycotoxins are produced by fungi that are able to enter a plant after insect damage. Globally, the FAO estimates that up to half of grains are affected by these naturally occurring toxins. They can harm our immune systems, slow growth, and cause cancer

JAS

Prevalence and impacts of genetically engineered feedstuffs on livestock populations A. L. Van Eenennaam, A. E. Young, Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis; Journal of Animal Science; 20 Nov 2014

What happens when 100 billion animals, over 18 years, eat GMOs? Jon Entine; Genetic Literacy Project; 19 Sep 2014

Visit almost any anti-GMO website and you will find alarming headlines about the alleged dangers of GMO foods. They kill pigs, cows and sheep on farms and in lab studies! Humans are next! Estimates of the numbers of meals consumed by feed animals since the introduction of GM crops 18 years ago would number well into the trillions. By common sense alone, if GE feed were causing unusual problems among livestock, farmers would have noticed. Dead and sick animals would literally litter farms around the world. Yet there are no anecdotal reports of such mass health problems.

AAAS

Statement by the AAAS Board of Directors On Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods AAAS; 12 June 2013 There are several current efforts to require labeling of foods containing products derived from genetically modified crop plants, commonly known as GM crops or GMOs. These efforts are not driven by evidence that GM foods are actually dangerous. Indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe. Rather, these initiatives are driven by a variety of factors, ranging from the persistent perception that such foods are somehow “unnatural” and potentially dangerous to the desire to gain competitive advantage by legislating attachment of a label meant to alarm. Another misconception used as a rationale for labeling is that GM crops are untested.

National Academy of Sciences

Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects (2016)

Distinction Between Genetic Engineering and Conventional Plant Breeding Becoming Less Clear, Says New Report on GE Crops National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; 17 May 2016

An extensive study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has found that new technologies in genetic engineering and conventional breeding are blurring the once clear distinctions between these two crop-improvement approaches. In addition, while recognizing the inherent difficulty of detecting subtle or long-term effects on health or the environment, the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops. However, evolved resistance to current GE characteristics in crops is a major agricultural problem.
A tiered process for regulating new crop varieties should focus on a plant’s characteristics rather than the process by which it was developed, the committee recommends in its report. New plant varieties that have intended or unintended novel characteristics that may present potential hazards should undergo safety testing -- regardless of whether they were developed using genetic engineering or conventional breeding techniques.

Scientists Say GMO Foods Are Safe, Public Skepticism Remains Tamar Haspel; National Geographic; 17 May 2016

Genetically-engineered crops are as safe to eat as their non-GE counterparts, they have no adverse environmental impacts, and they have reduced the use of pesticides. That’s according to a comprehensive report released by the National Academy of Sciences today—a group founded by the U.S. Congress to provide expert scientifically-based advice on a wide variety of issues.
But the academy also found that GE or (genetically-modified organisms or GMO) crops didn’t increase those crops’ potential yields, and they did lead to widespread and expensive problems with herbicide-resistant weeds.
The report acknowledges that beyond safety, other issues need to be addressed, including earning the public’s trust. It recommends a more transparent and inclusive conversation about GE crops going forward.
The report, two years in the making, is a 388-page, comprehensive look at every aspect of genetically engineered crops. “Sweeping statements about GE crops are problematic because issues related to them are multidimensional,” the report says right up front, and goes on to dig deep on those dimensions.

Once again, U.S. expert panel says genetically engineered crops are safe to eat Kelly Servick; AAAS Science; 17 May 2016

Almost 2 years ago, a group of 20 scientists began hashing out a consensus on the risks and benefits of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Since the launch of their study, sponsored by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, the public debate around the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and whether to label them has continued to rage. But behind the scenes, some things have changed. Agricultural markets are now bracing for an explosion of new plants designed using the precise gene-editing technology CRISPR, and regulators in both the United States and the European Union are struggling with how to assess their safety.
The panel’s report, released today, is a hefty literature review that tackles mainstay questions in the well-worn GMO debate. Are these plants safe to eat? How do they affect the environment? Do they drive herbicide-resistance in weeds or pesticide-resistance in insects? But it also weighs in on a more immediate conundrum for federal agencies: what to do with gene-edited plants that won’t always fit the technical definition of a regulated GE crop.
The authors picked through hundreds of research papers to make generalizations about GE varieties already in commercial production: There is “reasonable evidence that animals were not harmed by eating food derived from GE crops,” and epidemiological data shows no increase in cancer or any other health problems as a result of these crops entering into our food supply. Pest-resistant crops that poison insects thanks to a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) generally allow farmers to use less pesticide. Farmers can manage the risk of those pests evolving resistance by using crops with high enough levels of the toxin and planting non-Bt “refuges” nearby. Crops designed to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, meanwhile, can lead to heavy reliance on the chemical, and spawn resistant weeds that “present a major agronomic problem.” The panel urges more research on strategies to delay weed resistance.
The report saves the issue of regulation for its final chapter. Many countries—including the United States, whose framework for reviewing new biotechnology products was drafted in 1986—didn’t envision modern technologies when they legally defined genetic engineering. The first generation of GE crops used a bacterium to ferry genes from one organism into another. But CRISPR can knockout or precisely edit DNA sequences without leaving behind any foreign DNA. In fact, the DNA of a gene-edited crop could end up looking nearly identical to that of a conventionally bred variety. Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) deemed two CRISPR-edited crops, a mushroom that resists browning and a high-yield variety of waxy corn, to be exempt from its review process because neither contained genetic material from species considered to be “plant pests.”
Critics of those decisions argue that small genetic changes can still have big effects on the characteristics of a plant, and that gene-edited crops have slipped through the cracks without proper safety testing. Others argue that the precision of CRISPR limits environmental and health risks by making fewer unintended tweaks to a plant’s genome, and that subjecting them to a full regulatory review is needlessly costly and time consuming for their producers.
Last summer, the White House announced it would revamp the legal framework for evaluating biotechnology products across USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The European Commission, meanwhile, is also mulling whether plants without foreign DNA count as genetically modified.
Like several National Academies reviews before it, the new study condemned regulatory approaches that classify products based on the technology used to create them. “The National Academy has been saying since 1987 that it should be the product, not the process,” says Fred Gould, an applied evolutionary biologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and chair of the new report. “But the problem up until now is … how do you decide which products need more examination than others?”
There, the report makes a new suggestion: Regulators should ask for a full analysis of a plant’s composition—using modern “-omics” tools such as genome sequencing and analysis of the proteins and small molecules in a sample—to determine when a full safety review is necessary. The authors propose that crops containing different genes, producing a different set of proteins, or carrying out different metabolic reactions than conventionally bred varieties should trigger regulatory review if those differences have potential health or environmental impacts. And if a trait is so new that there’s no conventional counterpart to compare it to … just go ahead and regulate it, they conclude.

Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe and Possibly Good for Climate Change Niina Heikkinen, ClimateWire; Scientific American; 18 May 2016

Genetic engineering could play a role in making crops more resilient to climate change, but more research is still needed to understand the technology’s potential uses, the National Academy of Sciences said yesterday.
In a sweeping 400-page report, the country’s top scientific group found there was not evidence to support claims that genetically modified organisms are dangerous for either the environment or human health. At the same time, the introduction of genetically engineered crops had little apparent influence on the rate at which agricultural productivity was increasing over time.
In the future, the academy said, researchers and regulators should be sure to evaluate the safety and efficacy of specific crops, rather than focus on potential risk posed by the process of modifying the plants.
precautionary principle

Zi Teng Wang

... biological science can never be definitive in the way a 5-sigma particle detector result can be definitive in physics. Obviously, the precautionary principle is essential and important, but how much precaution counts as enough? Given actual benefit today and potential problems later (without plausible mechanism or observed problems), I think it's reasonable to apply it now and be vigilant about and responsive to problems as they crop up in the future.
The report found no cause and effect relationships to environmental harm, but that doesn't mean there are none to be found. This result has many potential explanations: either harm doesn't exist, or it does but at a level too subtle for existing experimental designs to pick it up, or we're looking for the wrong thing, or the study is done wrong.
But I think that an experiment designed with sufficient scope and power should be able to find problems if they exist. And I think that when a study across a broad enough stretch of time, a large-enough study sample, and a large-enough amount of study subjects fails to find a result, it makes me confident to say that results, if they exist, are too miniscule for us to be able to detect.
You're right, there are potential problems and unknowns that may crop up in the far future, or over a much longer term than we have seen yet. But 20 years of GM crops used widely, literally billions of hours of exposure of farm animals to GM feed, and no sign of exceptional problems yet, makes me think it's reasonable to proceed.
There is no magic finish line of "this is permanently Okay Forever", and this is not how science works. Caution is always warranted, especially with technologies that are new, but there must always be a point where the evidence we have so far is sufficient to reasonably justify proceeding. If you want to start moving the goalposts over how much time and how many experiments counts as enough to declare something Okay Forever, you can move the goalposts JUST beyond how much evidence currently exists ad infinitum.
I think that this report, which acknowledges the concern for potential problems in the future, and also explicitly points out that the data does not support these problems existing now, is an acknowledgement towards GM technology critics, but far, far from an endorsement.
I believe the evidence is clear so far. But for some critics, there is **no** amount that would suffice. I don't believe that position is worth entertaining, but it can often disguise itself in less absolutist-seeming but just as absolute ways.
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=4105

BBC Panorama "Cultivating Fear"

GM Food: Cultivating Fear BBC; Jun 2015

BBC dismisses anti-GMO activist complaints over Panorama film’s portrayal of Bangladesh Bt brinjal project Mark Lynas; (blog); 12 Apr 2016

The BBC has dismissed complaints by anti-GMO activists that its Panorama film ‘GM Food: Cultivating Fear‘ broadcast in June 2015, was biased and inaccurate. In a lengthy judgement just published (pdf), the BBC’s highest complaints body, the Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) of the BBC Trust, found that all the complaints made about the programme were without merit.

Appeals to the Trust and other editorial issues considered by the Editorial Standards Committee BBC Trust; Feb 2016, issued Mar 2016

salmon

Genetically Modified Salmon and Full Impact Assessment Martin D. Smith, Frank Asche, Atle G. Guttormsen, Jonathan B. Wiener; AAAS Science; 19 Nov 2010

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers approving a genetically modified (GM) Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), it faces fundamental questions of risk analysis and impact assessment. The GM salmon — whose genome contains an inserted growth gene from Pacific chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and a switch-on gene from ocean pout (Zoarces americanus) — would be the first transgenic animal approved for human consumption in the United States. But the mechanism for its approval, FDA’s new animal drug application (NADA) process, narrowly examines only the risks of each GM salmon compared with a non-GM salmon. This approach fails to acknowledge that the new product’s attributes may affect total production and consumption of salmon. This potentially excludes major human health and environmental impacts, both benefits and risks.
cheaper salmon may lead to public health benefits - more Omega 3 - but detriments - amount of wild fish needed to feed the farmed salmon

Genetically Engineered Salmon Pose Environmental Risks That Must Be Considered Elizabeth M. P. Madin; Oxford Journals BioScience; 2011

As the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers whether to approve the first genetically engineered animal to enter the American food supply (Williams 2010), we face the worrying prospect that approval will come without consideration of its full suite of potential environmental and ecological impacts.
Escape by these salmon into marine ecosystems would pose a wide range of environmental and ecological threats beyond those of conventional salmon (Naylor et al. 2005) grown in farms (Krkosek et al. 2007) and ocean pens (Vester and Timme 2010). Larger fish at a given age or season may out-compete wild salmon, potentially reducing individual or population growth rates. Predator-prey dynamics could be disrupted both through lethal and nonlethal means. The larger-at-age engineered salmon are likely to be more effective predators. Importantly, even in the absence of lethal effects, the mere presence of larger fish predators has been shown to alter prey behavior, causing trophic cascades in marine systems that can dramatically alter seafloor structure. Such ecosystem alterations could potentially have unanticipated repercussions throughout the food web.

butterflies / Hixson et al / Rothamsted oilseed

Deformed GMO Franken-butterflies? Not so fast… Mark Lynas; 26 Apr 2016

Scientists at the government-funded Rothamsted Research institute in the UK have been developing omega-3 fatty acids in the oilseed crop camelina, using genetic engineering to transfer the relevant genes into the target plant. The object is to develop a sustainable source of feed for fish farming: currently farmed salmon are dependent for these essential oils on fish harvested from the marine environment. To reduce the burden of overfishing we need a land-based supply of feed, hence the project. But how safe would this new GMO camelina be? Would the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which are produced by the camelina affect insects consuming the crop? A new study published by Plos One aimed to examine this question, using lab-reared cabbage white butterflies, a pest of cultivated brassicas such as camelina. The study, authored by Hixson et al, fed their lab-reared caterpillars artificial feed, some with the EPA and DHA fatty acids, and a control group without.

Long-Chain Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Have Developmental Effects on the Crop Pest, the Cabbage White Butterfly Pieris rapae Stefanie M. Hixson, Kruti Shukla, Lesley G. Campbell, Rebecca H. Hallett, Sandy M. Smith, Laurence Packer, Michael T. Arts; Plos One; 24 Mar 2016

Nutritional enhancement of crops using genetic engineering can potentially affect herbivorous pests. Recently, oilseed crops have been genetically engineered to produce the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) at levels similar to that found in fish oil; to provide a more sustainable source of these compounds than is currently available from wild fish capture. We examined some of the growth and development impacts of adding EPA and DHA to an artificial diet of Pieris rapae, a common pest of Brassicaceae plants. We replaced 1% canola oil with EPA: DHA (11:7 ratio) in larval diets, and examined morphological traits and growth of larvae and ensuing adults across 5 dietary treatments. Diets containing increasing amounts of EPA and DHA did not affect developmental phenology, larval or pupal weight, food consumption, nor larval mortality. However, the addition of EPA and DHA in larval diets resulted in progressively heavier adults (F 4, 108 = 6.78; p = 0.011), with smaller wings (p < 0.05) and a higher frequency of wing deformities (R = 0.988; p = 0.001). We conclude that the presence of EPA and DHA in diets of larval P. rapae may alter adult mass and wing morphology; therefore, further research on the environmental impacts of EPA and DHA production on terrestrial biota is advisable.

allergens

Genetically engineered food: Allergic to regulations? Nathanael Johnson; Grist; 30 Jul 2013

What are the true risks of genetically modified foods spreading allergens?
Elle - Caitlin Shetterly - GMO corn allergy

No, You Shouldn’t Fear GMO Corn Jon Entine; Slate; 7 Aug 2013

fear-based views are regularly reinforced by popular lifestyle magazines and the echo chamber of the Web. In the past two weeks alone, Details and Elle have run pieces that credulously stoke conspiratorial fears that the government is covering up evidence that GMO foods can damage the public health. Caitlin Shetterly’s long feature, “The Bad Seed: The Health Risks of Genetically Modified Corn,” in Elle—a magazine with more than 1.1 million monthly readers—was particularly appalling.

pro

100 Nobel laureates

Laureates Letter Supporting Precision Agriculture (GMOs) Support Precision Agriculture;

The United Nations Food & Agriculture Program has noted that global production of food, feed and fiber will need approximately to double by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing global population. Organizations opposed to modern plant breeding, with Greenpeace at their lead, have repeatedly denied these facts and opposed biotechnological innovations in agriculture. They have misrepresented their risks, benefits, and impacts, and supported the criminal destruction of approved field trials and research projects. We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against "GMOs" in general and Golden Rice in particular.

A plea to Greenpeace Mark Lynas; blog; 30 Jun 2016

You will no doubt have seen the letter signed by 100 Nobel laureates asking you to end your opposition to genetically modified organisms. I hope you realise what this means: a great number of the most prestigious and decorated scientists in the world are asking you to bring to a halt your decades-long war against biotechnology. I know you will be seriously considering their words. However deeply entrenched anti-GMO attitudes may be in your organisation, you cannot lightly dismiss the considered opinion of such a distinguished group of scientists as are 107 winners of Nobel Prizes. You should add to these individual voices the opinions of the National Academy of Sciences, which recently issued a landmark report on GMOs, and of numerous other scientific and academic institutions around the world from the AAAS to the Royal Society to the African Academy of Sciences.

10 Bullsh*t Arguments Against GMOs Yvette d'Entremont; Cosmopolitan; 3 Nov 2016

According to the internet, GMOs are responsible for a lot of problems. You’ve heard that they cause almost everything, including weight gain, acne, allergies, eczema, asthma, and maybe even cancer. They’re killing the bees, the butterflies ... And I’m hearing they’re also responsible for dementors, wingardium leviosa, and Voldemort. They’re the reason that jerk from Tinder ghosted you. And of course, they’re at least partially responsible for the collapse of the banking system and the Illuminati is using them as a tool to oppress the masses.

anti

Gilles-Eric Seralini

What are isogenic lines and why should they be used to study GE traits? The Mad Virologist; 2 Jan 2017

There has been quite a lot of talk about the latest paper from Seralini's group that claims that there are substantial metabolome differences between genetically engineered corn and non-GE corn. The paper was published in an online journal run by the Nature group (and not in Nature as some websites are claiming). At first glance, this paper seems to detail some results that are seriously concerning. However, when one examines the methodologies used, several glaring issues emerge that challenge the conclusions reached from the results presented. Many others have addressed several of the methodological problems with this study, but I'd like to focus on the corn lines that they used and the claims that they were isogenic as the entire experiment hinges on using the correct lines.
To start with, I need to explain what an isogenic line is as most people (even other scientists outside of the plant sciences) do not know what this is. When discussing isogenic lines, it's not a single line but at least two lines. Genetically, these lines differ by only a few genes but are identical beyond that. Achieving this is nearly impossible, so researchers will use near-isogenic lines (genetically these are at least 99% identical). Generally speaking, near-isogenic lines (NIL) are not available for purchase and must be generated. To do this, a donor plant with the gene of interest (in this case, the gene would be a GE trait like glyphosate resistance or Bt production) is crossed with what is called the recurrent parent (see figure below). Using genetic markers (in a process called marker assisted selection), progeny with the appropriate genes are then back crossed against the recurrent parent and the trait selected for until the progeny are 99% genetically identical to the recurrent parent. It takes time and effort to generate an NIL like this, and there simply are no shortcuts to getting there.

An integrated multi-omics analysis of the NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize reveals metabolism disturbances caused by the transformation process Robin Mesnage, Sarah Z. Agapito-Tenfen, Vinicius Vilperte, George Renney, Malcolm Ward, Gilles-Eric Séralini, Rubens O. Nodari & Michael N. Antoniou; Scientific Reports; 17 Aug 2016

Glyphosate tolerant genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 was assessed as ‘substantially equivalent’ to its isogenic counterpart by a nutrient composition analysis in order to be granted market approval. We have applied contemporary in depth molecular profiling methods of NK603 maize kernels (sprayed or unsprayed with Roundup) and the isogenic corn to reassess its substantial equivalence status. Proteome profiles of the maize kernels revealed alterations in the levels of enzymes of glycolysis and TCA cycle pathways, which were reflective of an imbalance in energy metabolism. Changes in proteins and metabolites of glutathione metabolism were indicative of increased oxidative stress. The most pronounced metabolome differences between NK603 and its isogenic counterpart consisted of an increase in polyamines including N-acetyl-cadaverine (2.9-fold), N-acetylputrescine (1.8-fold), putrescine (2.7-fold) and cadaverine (28-fold), which depending on context can be either protective or a cause of toxicity. Our molecular profiling results show that NK603 and its isogenic control are not substantially equivalent.

Séralini paper: Molecular analysis shows GMO corn differs from non-GMO–Is difference meaningful? Genetic Literacy Project; 21 Dec 2016

The GLP has asked independent scientists to review this study.

Vandana Shiva

Dedicated Thread: Vandana Shiva and Farmer Suicides In India GMO Skepti-Forum; facebook

Jeffrey Smith

Genetic Roulette Academics Review

Genetic Roulette is Jeffrey Smith’s second self-published book in which he makes unsubstantiated claims against biotechnology. In it, he details 65 separate claims that the technology causes harm in a variety of ways. On these pages each of those claims – addressed in the same eight “sections” that correspond directly with the book – are stacked up against peer-reviewed science.

Anatomy Of A Smear Attack on GMO Supporting Scientists Jon Entine & Val Giddings; Huffington Post; 3 Apr 2015

Recently on the Huffington Post we came across a disturbing article - an attack by Jeffrey Smith on two respected university professors who apply a critical eye to the claims made by various advocates alleging dangers to human health linked to genetically modified organisms (GMOs.) Smith, if you are not familiar with him, heads up a one-man band rabidly anti-GMO organization known as the Institute for Responsible Technology—he and his organization are controversial to say the least, but more on that later.

Robert Schooler

“A Blatant Display of Unscientific Propaganda:” Cornell Student Exposes GMO Propaganda in Scathing New Letter Nick Meyer; Alt Health Works; 22 Aug 2016

My name is Robert, and I am a Cornell University undergraduate student. However, I’m not sure if I want to be one any more. Allow me to explain. Cornell, as an institution, appears to be complicit in a shocking amount of ecologically destructive, academically unethical, and scientifically deceitful behavior. Perhaps the most potent example is Cornell’s deep ties to industrial GMO agriculture, and the affiliated corporations such as Monsanto. I’d like to share how I became aware of this troubling state of affairs.

ONE ON ONE THREAD between Robert Schooler and Marc Brazeau Food and Farm Discussion Lab; facebook; 9 Aug 2016

Federico Infascelli - GMOs, goats study

RETRACTED: Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Activity in Kids Born from Goats Fed Genetically Modified Soybean Scientific Research; Jun 2013

Short Retraction Notice
The paper does not meet the standards of "Food and Nutrition Sciences".
This article has been retracted to straighten the academic record. In making this decision the Editorial Board follows COPE's Retraction Guidelines. The aim is to promote the circulation of scientific research by offering an ideal research publication platform with due consideration of internationally accepted standards on publication ethics. The Editorial Board would like to extend its sincere apologies for any inconvenience this retraction may have caused.

Paper claiming GMO dangers retracted amid allegations of data manipulation Retraction Watch; 17 Jan 2016

One paper by Infascelli has been retracted from Food and Nutrition Science, “Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Activity in Kids Born from Goats Fed Genetically Modified Soybean.” The retraction note says the paper was pulled for duplication:
The article has been retracted due to the investigation of complaints received against it. The data of figure 1(b) came from the previous published paper by Tudisco R, Mastellone V, Cutrignelli MI, Lombardi P, Bovera F, Mirabella N, Piccolo G, Calabrò S, Avallone , Infascelli F. Animal.“Fate of transgenic DNA and evaluation of metabolic effects in goats fed genetically modified soybean and in their offsprings”4(10):1662-71, 2010. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and we treat all unethical behavior such as plagiarism seriously.

Retraction notice for GMO paper updated to include fraud Retraction Watch; 12 Oct 2016

Here is the updated version of the retraction notice for “Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Activity in Kids Born from Goats Fed Genetically Modified Soybean:”
This paper involves in data fabrication so it does not meet the standard for publication. This article has been retracted to straighten the academic record. In making this decision the Editorial Board follows COPE’s Retraction Guidelines. Aim is to promote the circulation of scientific research by offering an ideal research publication platform with due consideration of internationally accepted standards on publication ethics.

Norway - GenØk

How Norway Became an Anti-GMO Powerhouse Øystein Heggdal and Liv Langberg; Food and Farm Discussion Lab; 14 Oct 2016

Eight years, $3.6 million a year, 40 employees, zero knowledge back. This is the story of GenØk and the politicization of science in Norway.

New York Times - Danny Hakim

Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops DANNY HAKIM; New York Times; 29 Oct 2016

an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides
responses

The tiresome discussion of initial GMO expectations Andrew Kniss; Weed Control Freaks; 30 Oct 2016

A new article in the New York Times has questioned the benefits associated with genetically engineered crops (which I’ll call GMOs for brevity). The response to the article has been pretty predictable; folks who don’t like GMOs are circulating it to say “I told you so.” And ag-twitter has exploded with claims that the New York Times is biased against the technology. The article makes some reasonable points that GMO crops are not a ‘silver bullet’ cure all technology. But almost any reasonable person has already acknowledged that. In a nutshell, the article has 2 main conclusions: GMO crops don’t yield more, and GMO crops haven’t reduced pesticide use. These two items were initially claimed as reasons to invest in and adopt GMO crops, and for many years, we’ve been hearing about how these crops either have or have not met the initial expectations. Danny Hakim looked at some data and has come down pretty solidly on the side of “have not” met expectations.

Rehashing a Tired Argument Kevin Folta; blog; 30 Oct

The author here returns to two well-refuted, ancient criticisms. First, that genetically engineered crops fail to yield, and next, that they don't cut "pesticides".

The Times Gets it Wrong on GMOs Steven Novella; The Ness; 31 Oct 2016

A recent New York Times article, in my opinion, is a good example of what happens when a journalist writes about a complex and contentious topic and allows their narrative to overtake the facts.

What the New York Times missed with its big GMO story Nathanael Johnson; Grist; 1 Nov 2016

if you take the most mild interpretation of the piece — GMOs haven’t dramatically improved yields, but they are useful — then it’s really not news. Back in May, the National Academy of Sciences said the same thing with much more nuance and detail.
If your takeaway from the piece is that GMOs just aren’t useful, then it runs contrary to loads of evidence — which the story almost completely omits. And it makes comparisons that sound compelling, but don’t actually tell you much about the state of farming.
The article relies on a comparison of farm statistics from North America (where we grow GMOs) to farm statistics from Western Europe (where they don’t). The problem with this big picture focus is that the details on GMOs get really fuzzy. At the international level, there are so many variables — weather, pests, soils, economics, and farming techniques, just to name a few — that it’s near impossible to pick out the effects of biotechnology.

Hakim’s Effort to Skewer Biotech Crops in Sunday's NY Times Nina V. Fedoroff; OFW Law (blog); 1 Nov 2016

Danny Hakim’s attempt to skewer biotech crops in his recent article on the front page Sunday’s New York Times (Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops, Oct. 29, 2016) is skewed from beginning to end. His insight – what he says the debate has missed – is that genetic modification has not accelerated increases in crop yields.
Well – duh! – they weren’t meant to. The two major modifications in widespread use today are resistance to certain types of pests and tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate. These biotech traits were designed to be advantageous to farmers by decreasing their input costs through reduced use of insecticides, and reduced necessity for weed control. So citing yield data is simply disingenuous.
It’s kind of like accusing the body shop that just fixed your dented car door of not making your engine run better.
Nina has served on the National Science Board, the Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the Board of Directors of the AAAS, BIOSIS, and the Sigma-Aldrich Chemical Company; she served as President of AAAS in 2012.

labelling

Why we need to label GMOs Mark Lynas; 15 Oct 2013

Time for a compromise on GMO labelling Mark Lynas; 12 Jul 2016

Bt

Insect Resistance: Bt traits Biology Fortified Inc

explanation and infographic on Bt GM traits

Latham

Review of "GMO Dangers: The Facts You Need to Know" Layla Katiraee - Biochica; FrankenFoodFacts; 28 May 2016

review of article by Dr Jonathan Latham
Jonathan Latham & Allison Wilson American Loons; 9 Jan 2014
critique of Latham and partner
Bioscience Resource Project critique of modern genomics: a missed opportunity Daniel MacArthur; Science Blogs - Genetic Future; 15 Dec 2010
critique of another Latham piece

resistance

Insect resistance to Bt crops: lessons from the first billion acres Bruce E Tabashnik, Thierry Brévault & Yves Carrière; Nature Biotechnology; 24 Oct 2012; [doi:10.1038/nbt.2597 doi:10.1038/nbt.2597]

Evolution of resistance in pests can reduce the effectiveness of insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) produced by transgenic crops. We analyzed results of 77 studies from five continents reporting field monitoring data for resistance to Bt crops, empirical evaluation of factors affecting resistance or both. Although most pest populations remained susceptible, reduced efficacy of Bt crops caused by field-evolved resistance has been reported now for some populations of 5 of 13 major pest species examined, compared with resistant populations of only one pest species in 2005. Field outcomes support theoretical predictions that factors delaying resistance include recessive inheritance of resistance, low initial frequency of resistance alleles, abundant refuges of non-Bt host plants and two-toxin Bt crops deployed separately from one-toxin Bt crops. The results imply that proactive evaluation of the inheritance and initial frequency of resistance are useful for predicting the risk of resistance and improving strategies to sustain the effectiveness of Bt crops.


Pink Bollworm Strikes Bt-Cotton Dr. K.R. Kranthi; Cotton Association of India "Cotton Statistics and News"; 1 Dec 2015

The pink bollworm is back with a vengeance. This insect was a serious concern for cotton in India about 30 years ago. There were very few reports of any major damage by pink bollworm to cotton since 1982 in the country. But all that has changed now. This year, severe damage to bolls by pink bollworm and yield-losses were observed in Bt-cotton in many regions of Gujarat and some parts of AP, Telangana and Maharashtra. More concerning is the fact that the worm is happily chewing up Bollgard-II-Bt-cotton which contains two genes (cry1Ac+cry2Ab) that were supposed to be highly effective in controlling the pest.

Bt cotton failure forces govt to promote native seeds live Mint; 5 Apr 2016

With bollworm developing resistance to Bt cotton crop, the government has decided to promote cultivation of indigenous varieties of the crop in a big way this year. In 2015-16 crop year (July-June) [sic], there was a significant damage to cotton crop because of whitefly and pink bollworm pest attack in states like Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

naturally occurring

Farmers may have been accidentally making GMOs for millennia New Scientist; 7 Mar 2016

We have been accidentally genetically engineering plants – and eating GMOs – for millennia. That is the implication of a series of studies showing the ancient practice of grafting can allow even distantly related plants to swap all three kinds of genomes they possess. “It’s genetic engineering done by mother nature,” says Ralph Bock of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany.

Wasps have injected new genes into butterflies David Shultz; AAAS Science Mag; 17 Sep 2015

If you’re a caterpillar, you do not want to meet a parasitic wasp. The winged insect will inject you full of eggs, which will grow inside your body, develop into larvae, and hatch from your corpse. But a new study reveals that wasps have given caterpillars something beneficial during these attacks as well: pieces of viral DNA that become part of the caterpillar genome, protecting them against an entirely different lethal virus. In essence, the wasps have turned caterpillars into genetically modified organisms.
“The key strength of the study is it clearly demonstrates that [viruses] have been a source of horizontal gene transfer for some insects,” says parasitic wasp expert Michael Strand of the University of Georgia, Athens, who was not involved in the study.

The genome of cultivated sweet potato contains Agrobacterium T-DNAs with expressed genes: An example of a naturally transgenic food crop Tina Kyndt, Dora Quispea, Hong Zhai, Robert Jarret, Marc Ghislain, Qingchang Liu, Godelieve Gheysen, and Jan F. Kreuze; PNAS; 16 Mar 2015

We communicate the rather remarkable observation that among 291 tested accessions of cultivated sweet potato, all contain one or more transfer DNA (T-DNA) sequences. These sequences, which are shown to be expressed in a cultivated sweet potato clone (“Huachano”) that was analyzed in detail, suggest that an Agrobacterium infection occurred in evolutionary times. One of the T-DNAs is apparently present in all cultivated sweet potato clones, but not in the crop’s closely related wild relatives, suggesting the T-DNA provided a trait or traits that were selected for during domestication. This finding draws attention to the importance of plant–microbe interactions, and given that this crop has been eaten for millennia, it may change the paradigm governing the “unnatural” status of transgenic crops.

benefits

Documented Benefits of GM Crops International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications

This Pocket K documents some of the GM crop experiences of selected developing countries.
ISAAA is a not-for-profit international organization that shares the benefits of crop biotechnology to various stakeholders, particularly resource-poor farmers in developing countries, through knowledge sharing initiatives and the transfer and delivery of proprietary biotechnology applications. ISAAA's global knowledge sharing network and partnerships in the research and development continuum, provide a powerful combination of science-based information and appropriate technology to those who need to make informed decisions about their acceptance and use. In addition, an array of support services completes the holistic approach to agricultural development and ensures effective implementation and timely delivery of crop biotechnologies. These services include capacity building for policy makers and scientists; regulatory oversight on such issues as biosafety and food safety; impact assessment, and science communication.

applications

University of Arizona researcher turns off a potent corn toxin that stunts childhood growth, causes liver disease Tom Beal; Arizona Daily Star; 10 Mar 2017

Monica Schmidt, a plant geneticist at the University of Arizona, has engineered a strain of corn that shuts off the ability of a plant fungus to produce aflatoxin, which can stunt childhood growth and cause liver disease. Schmidt said this particular genetic modification has the potential to improve public health and save lives in places like Africa.
It can also prevent the waste of tens of millions of tons of grain that have to be destroyed each year because of the toxin’s presence.
The assistant professor of plant sciences and researcher at the UA Bio5 Institute published her findings Friday in Science Advances, the online open-access arm of the journal Science.
The procedure Schmidt and colleagues designed embeds a snippet of RNA from an aspergillus fungus into the corn plant. When the host plant and fungus exchange small bits of genetic information during infection, the ability to produce aflatoxin is shut down.
The mechanism was 100 percent effective in trials, according to peer-reviewed results published in the journal.
Because the procedure introduces genetic material from the fungus into the corn, it is classified as “transgenic” — and that has already caused funding problems for Schmidt’s research, which was conducted with a $100,000 Grand Challenge grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Improved photosynthesis

Improving photosynthesis and crop productivity by accelerating recovery from photoprotection Johannes Kromdijk, Katarzyna Głowacka, Lauriebeth Leonelli, Stéphane T. Gabilly, Masakazu Iwai Krishna K. Niyogi, Stephen P. Long; Science; 18 Nov 2016

Crop leaves in full sunlight dissipate damaging excess absorbed light energy as heat. When sunlit leaves are shaded by clouds or other leaves, this protective dissipation continues for many minutes and reduces photosynthesis. Calculations have shown that this could cost field crops up to 20% of their potential yield. Here, we describe the bioengineering of an accelerated response to natural shading events in Nicotiana (tobacco), resulting in increased leaf carbon dioxide uptake and plant dry matter productivity by about 15% in fluctuating light. Because the photoprotective mechanism that has been altered is common to all flowering plants and crops, the findings provide proof of concept for a route to obtaining a sustainable increase in productivity for food crops and a much-needed yield jump.

How turning off a plant's sunshield can grow bigger crops Erik StokstadNov; AAAS Science magazine; 17 Nov 2016

Just because plants photosynthesize doesn't mean they can't get a form of sunburn—damage caused by overexposure to light. That's why all plants rely on a mechanism that defends against excessively bright sunlight by converting photons into harmless heat. But like someone who is slow to doff their sunglasses indoors, this botanical sun shield is slow to turn off when a shadow passes over a leaf. The result: Photosynthesis stays depressed.
Now, plant biologists seeking improved photosynthesis—and, ultimately, more bountiful crops—have cleverly manipulated plants to adjust more quickly to shade. Genetically engineered into tobacco plants, the faster response yielded up to a 20% increase in biomass. The proof-of-concept study, which appears today in Science, is "ground-breaking" and the first convincing field trial in the hot area of engineering photosynthesis, says Robert Furbank, an integrative plant biologist at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Genetic breakthrough: Crops use more sunlight to grow Victoria Gill; BBC News; 17 Nov 2016

Scientists have improved "the most important biological process on the planet" - photosynthesis.
Rothamsted wheat

Scientists apply for GM wheat trial in UK Pallab Ghosh; BBC News; 4 Nov 2016

Researchers have applied for a licence to carry out a trial of a genetically modified wheat crop in a small field in Hertfordshire.
The GM wheat converts sunlight into chemical energy (photosynthesis) more efficiently, boosting growth. If the government grants permission, the experiment would potentially be the second ongoing field trial in the UK. A go-ahead would indicate a softening in opposition to outdoor experiments to develop GM crops in Britain. The researchers believe that the variety has potential to greatly increase crop yields. The purpose of the proposed trial is to evaluate the performance of the engineered plants in the field. Approval could be granted by the end of January 2017 and the first crops could be planted next spring at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden.

Potato blight resistance

Genetically modified potatoes 'resist late blight' Matt McGrath, Environment correspondent; BBC News; 17 Feb 2014

British scientists have developed genetically modified potatoes that are resistant to the vegetable's biggest threat - blight.

Improving cold storage and processing traits in potato through targeted gene knockout Benjamin M. Clasen, Thomas J. Stoddard, Song Luo, Zachary L. Demorest, Jin Li, Frederic Cedrone, Redeat Tibebu, Shawn Davison, Erin E. Ray, Aurelie Daulhac, Andrew Coffman, Ann Yabandith, Adam Retterath, William Haun, Nicholas J. Baltes, Luc Mathis, Daniel F. Voytas, Feng Zhang; Plant Biotechnology Journal; 7 Apr 2015

Cold storage of potato tubers is commonly used to reduce sprouting and extend postharvest shelf life. However, cold temperature stimulates the accumulation of reducing sugars in potato tubers. Upon high-temperature processing, these reducing sugars react with free amino acids, resulting in brown, bitter-tasting products and elevated levels of acrylamide—a potential carcinogen. To minimize the accumulation of reducing sugars, RNA interference (RNAi) technology was used to silence the vacuolar invertase gene (VInv), which encodes a protein that breaks down sucrose to glucose and fructose. Because RNAi often results in incomplete gene silencing and requires the plant to be transgenic, here we used transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) to knockout VInv within the commercial potato variety, Ranger Russet. We isolated 18 plants containing mutations in at least one VInv allele, and five of these plants had mutations in all VInv alleles. Tubers from full VInv-knockout plants had undetectable levels of reducing sugars, and processed chips contained reduced levels of acrylamide and were lightly coloured. Furthermore, seven of the 18 modified plant lines appeared to contain no TALEN DNA insertions in the potato genome. These results provide a framework for using TALENs to quickly improve traits in commercially relevant autotetraploid potato lines.

Organic potatoes cause cancer (same for all potatoes except the new GMO potato) Wallace Kaufman; Chatham Journal; 10 Jul 2016

article based on Clasen et al paper above

Cellectis

Wikipedia article on Cellectis, parent company of Cellectis Plant Sciences who employ Clasen et al

sugar beet

As consumers shift to non-GMO sugar, farmers may be forced to abandon environmental and social gains Andrew Kniss; Weed Control Freaks; 12 May 2016

So to summarize, GMO sugarbeet has reduced herbicide use, increased soil health, decreased risk of crop injury, increased yield, and has even allowed farmers to spend more time with their families.

Sweet Irony: The Environmental Impacts Of GMO Sugar Science Denial Kevin M. Folta; Science 2.0; 13 May 2016

The sugarcane and sugar beet each produce the same final product. It is truly troubling that companies are being coerced into costly decisions that have no effect on what the consumer eats, other than raising its cost, and producing it with greater environmental impact.

Bt Brinjal

Bt eggplant - Feed The Future Cornell University

Over the past decade USAID supported the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSP II), a consortium of public and private institutions in Asia and Africa with support from Cornell University. ABSP II focused on safe and effective development and commercialization of bio-engineered crops as a complement to conventional agricultural approaches to help alleviate poverty, reduce hunger and boost food security, economic growth, environmental quality and nutrition in the partner developing nations. Over the project period, the consortium successfully developed fruit and shoot borer resistant (FSBR) eggplant (Bt eggplant) for Bangladesh and the Philippines. In 2013, Bangladesh commercialized Bt eggplant.

Frank Shotkoski, Examination of Bt eggplant release in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi Bt brinjal farmer speaks out in GMO controversy Md. Arif Hossain; Cornell Alliance for Science; 12 Jul 2016

The Bangladeshi farmer at the center of a controversy on GMOs has spoken out to clarify his recent experience of growing Bt brinjal, the pest-resistant eggplant which is under the international media spotlight as the world's first genetically-modified food crop being grown in a developing country.
The farmer also recounted being visited by anti-GMO activists from "several offices, to tell me adverse things about Bt brinjal. They gave me a book and told me that, 'Look brother, Bt brinjal has various problems'. They also told me not to eat this brinjal. They said if insects don’t eat this, it must not be a good thing for humans to eat. With my practical mind to counter them, I asked them that people take medicines for worms, the worms die, why don’t people die? They were not able to answer my question."

Bangladesh's Genetically Modified Eggplants Hidde Boersma, Philip Fountain, Karsten de Vreugd; Aljazeera

multimedia account of GM brinjal in Bangladesh

Bananas - Uganda

The GMO Debate: Let Africa speak for Herself Patricia Nanteza, 2015 Global Leadership Fellow; Cornell Alliance for Science; 24 Nov 2015

Africa and Uganda in particular can speak up for herself. Our leaders have the ability to listen to and understand the science of genetic engineering and its benefits to African farmers and families, and to ultimately make the right policy decisions. We do not need America to tell us that GMOs are good or Europe forcing us to ban them. All the GE research being undertaken in Uganda on bananas has over 95% Ugandan scientists doing the everyday work from laboratories based in Kawanda. The other 5% are partners in Australia and USA.

Papaya

Papaya ringspot virus wikipedia

Hawaiian papaya production has been severely affected twice by PRSV. The virus was introduced to Oahu as early as 1937. The disease was mild for a number of years until it either mutated or a more aggressive strain was introduced around 1950. Within 12 years, the amount of land under papaya production dropped 94%. Production was then moved from Oahu to the Puna region of Hawaii island (the "Big Island") under strict quarantine. In 1971 PRSV was found in home gardens but efforts were taken to prevent its spread. The virus emerged in commercial farms in 1992 and by 1995 production in Puna was impossible. Commercial growers again relocated to the Hamakua coast but with only limited success. Hawaiian papaya production was halved by the end of the decade. Transgenic papaya varieties that are resistant to PRSV entered production in 1998 and resuscitated the industry.

Papaya: A GMO success story Tom Callis; Hawaii Tribune Herald; 10 Jun 2013

Vitamin A

These vitamin-fortified bananas might get you thinking differently about GMOs Nathanael Johnson; Vox; 30 Mar 2016

examination of Vitamin A deficiency and its effects (death as well as blindness), attempts to treat it and their problems, carotene-enhanced crops, golden rice and its controversy and technical problems, Ugandan VA-enhanced bananas, safety, industrial agriculture; plus a summary of pros and cons, and arguments around, GM

Huffpo Attacks GMO Bananas Steven Novella; 21 Apr 2016

Eric Gimenez, writing for the Huffpo, recently wrote a typical anti-GMO piece, hitting many of the common themes. He focuses on the GMO banana with enhanced vitamin A, but his article reflects the poor logic, tortured arguments, and general anti-science of the anti-GMO crowd.

Synthetic biology

Synthetic biology’s revolutionary and often disquieting impact on our food system Marc Brazeau; Genetic Literacy Project; 2 Oct 2014

Synthetic biology (synbio) has started to change how we produce food in small ways and is poised to bring about very large changes as the technology matures. The field is fairly broadly defined. It covers current applications like genetically modifying yeasts and algae to convert a substrate like sugar into valuable compounds like vanillin (the compound that give vanilla it flavor and aroma) and ingredients for medicines. But the cutting edge of synthetic biology isn’t just genetically engineering algae and yeasts to produce useful compounds; it’s designing and printing genes from scratch, even multiple genes organized into plasmids (clusters of genes that perform a task) that can tackle complex problems. This video provides a great primer on where the technology is now and how it works.
Algal oil

Algae Alert - Algae oil is the newest and most innovative oil to hit the market ROWAN JACOBSEN; Tasting Table; 6 Apr 2016

Growing oilseed is very wasteful. Each canola, soybean, sunflower or peanut plant produces only a tiny amount of seed, which is then pressed to release its oil. The rest is waste. Those plants yield less than half a ton of oil per hectare, whereas algae are so efficient at converting sugarcane into oil that they can yield three and a half tons per hectare. That means the same amount of oil from a fraction of the land and a smaller carbon footprint. Still, sugarcane is no environmental saint, so I look forward to the day—very soon, according to the TerraVia folks—when the feedstock for the algae will be cellulose—the leftover fibers of plant stalks and leaves. When high-grade culinary oil can be made inexpensively from the waste materials of corn or any other grain, the future will have arrived.

Companies Quietly Apply Biofuel Tools to Household Products STEPHANIE STROM; NT Times; 30 May 2014

Consumer products containing ingredients made using an advanced form of engineering known as synthetic biology are beginning to show up more often on grocery and department store shelves. A liquid laundry detergent made by Ecover, a Belgian company that makes “green” household products including the Method line, contains an oil produced by algae whose genetic code was altered using synthetic biology. The algae’s DNA sequence was changed in a lab, according to Tom Domen, the company’s manager for long-term innovation.

Intellectual property

How “Open Source” Seed Producers from the U.S. to India Are Changing Global Food Production Food and Farm Discussion Lab; 19 Dec 2016

The Open Source Seed Initiative, inspired by “the free and open source software movement that has provided alternatives to proprietary software,” was created to ensure that some plant varieties and genes will remain free from intellectual property rights and available for plant breeders in perpetuity.

Glyphosate

dicamba

drift

discussion Vonda Stevens Kirkpatrick; facebook Food and Farm Discussion Lab; ~Aug 2016

Arkansas: Dicamba Off-Label Drift Puts Farming Neighbors in Awkward Position Ryan McGeeney, U of A System Division of Agriculture' AgFax; 15 Jul 2016

dicamba off-label, drift, xtend, Monsanto, pigweed
As farmers face mounting pressure from resistant pigweed, some are turning to off-label use of an herbicide, causing damage to thousands of acres of crops, according to complaints fielded by regulators in Arkansas and Missouri. At issue is dicamba, an herbicide that offers some control of resistant pigweed. If and when the Environmental Protection Agency approves, dicamba is intended for use on Xtend cotton and soybeans. Xtend cotton and soybeans were developed by Monsanto to resist dicamba. It’s been planted for the first time on a limited number of acres in Arkansas. Tom Barber, extension weed scientist for the Division of Agriculture, said reports of injury were concentrated in northeast Arkansas, although he had received word of similar incidents in Lee, Lonoke and Phillips counties as well. “What appears to be happening is that growers planted this technology, then decided to make off-label applications of dicamba over the top for weed control prior to the product receiving a full herbicide label,” Barber said. “This new technology was approved for export to China in the early spring, and released for cotton and soybean growers to plant without a formulation of dicamba herbicide labeled for use,” he said. “Given the resistant pigweed situation we’ve had, growers who planted this technology felt like they didn’t have an option for pigweed control, and they needed to spray something. “Roundup no longer controls pigweed, and now several populations across the state are also PPO-resistant, so products containing fomesafen, such as Flexstar, are no longer an option for pigweed in soybeans,” he said. Barber said the majority of injury to non-Xtend soybeans is likely coming from drift, tank contamination and volatility – a tendency of some formulations of dicamba to vaporize after application. Once vaporized, the herbicide becomes windborne and deposited on sensitive crops away from the original target.

Dicamba Drift Strikes Arkansas and Other Mid-South States Agricultural Council of Arkansas; 18 Jul 2016

Arkansas and many other states are experiencing crop damage due to off-label use of the herbicide dicamba. It is believed that the release of new dicamba tolerant seed technology from Monsanto without approval for it’s proprietary dicamba based herbicide formulation has led to problems that have resulted from some farmers utilizing dicamba in a manner not approved. This unapproved usage has caused damage to thousands of acres of crops and increased work loads for the State Plant Board, which is tasked with fielding complaint calls and inspecting potential off target applications. While the seed was recently accepted for import from China, it has yet to be approved by European Union markets, and many grain companies have announced that they will not purchase dicamba tolerant seed without full market approval. Monsanto continues to seek approval for it’s new dicamba formulations, which they claim have far less volatility concerns from traditional dicamba formulations already available in the marketplace, and they believe the chemical formulations will be approved and available for the 2017 crop year.

Dicamba Drift and Potential Effects on Soybean Yield Tom Barber, Extension Weed Scientist; U of Arkansas Dept Ag; 7 Jul 2016

Driving around the Midsouth, especially in the Missouri Bootheel, West Tennessee and some areas of Northeast Arkansas it is not hard to find soybean fields that look similar to the picture below. Several thousand acres have been affected by either drift, volatility, temperature inversions or tank contamination from dicamba herbicide applications. dicamba on beans4No matter how many times we have mentioned the potential off target issues with this herbicide, it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Many producers planted Xtend cotton and soybean cultivars which are tolerant to dicamba herbicide this season; however, no federal label currently exists for any dicamba formulations to be applied at planting or over the top of this technology. Coincidentally this has been one of the worst pigweed years in recent memory, with the onset of PPO-resistant Palmer pigweed, especially in these regions mentioned. Many growers I am sure felt that they did not have a choice, either spray dicamba or lose the crop. Based on the number of acres affected, it appears that many fields of cotton and soybean containing this technology have been sprayed with an off-labeled application of dicamba either preemergence or postemergence or likely, both. In addition, the improved formulations of dicamba that reduce volatility are not available, so any dicamba formulations that have been sprayed to these fields are ones that tend to be more volatile which increases the potential for off-target movement. The result of these applications is damage on neighboring susceptible soybean and cotton fields that are not Xtend or tolerant to dicamba herbicide. Over the last two weeks we have received more phone calls than we can count wondering what to do and what to expect once this injury occurs.
Fortunately we have had a graduate student working for the last two years on a project to answer a lot of these questions. We knew going in to this project that soybean was very sensitive to dicamba herbicide, but I don’t think we really knew how sensitive. Based on these data, the severity of yield loss from drift or off target movement of dicamba is dependent on two main factors: number 1- the rate of dicamba active that injured the beans, and number 2- the growth stage when the beans were affected. One important thing to keep in mind while looking at this damage in the field is that the full extent of dicamba injury may not be revealed until after 3 weeks from when the drift occurred. So fields will need to be monitored for at least 3 weeks after the first initial symptoms are revealed to evaluate the full injury potential.

Illegal herbicide use may threaten survival of Missouri's largest peach farm Bryce Gray; St. Louis Post-Dispatch; 14 Aug 2016

While investigators from the state Department of Agriculture continue to search for an official diagnosis, Bader believes he is one of many area farmers victimized by dicamba, a drift-prone herbicide suspected of causing widespread damage to crops in southeastern Missouri and beyond. He says the farm’s typical harvest of 5 million to 6 million pounds may be reduced by 40 percent this year, as trees with withered or missing leaves have borne smaller fruit. Bader reports that almost 10,000 other trees mustered only walnut-sized peaches not even worth picking. He says the shortfall will amount to a loss of produce of $1.5 million to $2 million. Though dicamba has been around for decades, new technology is bringing it to the fore as weeds develop greater resistance to glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup. To combat them, Monsanto, the Creve Coeur-based biotech seed company, released genetically modified cotton that is resistant to dicamba in 2015 and, this year, started selling a variety of dicamba-resistant soybeans. But the company’s corresponding dicamba herbicide is still awaiting approval from the Environmental Protection Agency — leaving farmers without a complete package of products. Despite clear warnings forbidding use of dicamba substitutes, it’s believed that a number of farmers went ahead and sprayed other forms of the herbicide, hurting nearby farmers with non-resistant crops. Monsanto’s dicamba formulation seeking approval is supposedly less volatile, aiming to minimize drift. But at present, suspected drift from older, more volatile dicamba mixtures has plagued farmers around the region.

COMPLIANCE ADVISORY US EPA Office of Compliance Enforcement; Aug 2016

High Number of Complaints Related to Alleged Misuse of Dicamba Raises Concerns
Based on cropping patterns and the number of acres of non-resistant crops adversely affected, extension experts across the country believe that illegal use of dicamba products on adjacent or nearby dicamba-resistant cotton and soybean crops caused the observed crop damage. The EPA has not registered any dicamba herbicides for application at planting or over the top of growing cotton or soybean plants, including crops genetically modified to tolerate dicamba. Therefore, any application of a dicamba product during the growing seasons of cotton or soybean crops is unlawful under FIFRA. Unlawful applications of dicamba products can result in residues on harvested crops and affect the yields of non-target crops.

EU approval

EU makes moves on three soybean events Willie Vogt; Farm Industry News Blog; 22 Jul 2016

There's news today, announced by the U.S. Soybean Export Council, that the European Union has approved three biotech soy traits for import and processing. The latest three are:
  • Monsanto's Roundup Ready 2 Xtend with dicamba and glyphosate tolerance
  • Monsanto's Vistive Gold, which is a high oleic soybean with glyphosate tolerance.
  • Bayer's Balance GT which offers tolerance to glyphosate and the company's HPPD inhibitor (developed with MS Technologies.

Monsanto

Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto? Lessley Anderson; Modern Farmer; 4 Mar 2014

Is Monsanto evil? Franklin Veaux; The Revisionist (blog); 27 May 2015

Food and Farm Discussion Lab's archive of discussions about Monsanto

What’s in a Monsanto Contract? Brian Scott; The Farmer's Life; 9 Feb 2016

International Monsanto Tribunal

International Monsanto Tribunal

No, Monsanto Is Not Going On Trial For Crimes Against Humanity Kavin Senapathy; Forbes; 7 Dec 2015

Monsanto To Go On Fake Trial In Kangaroo Court, But Not Without Opposition Kavin Senapathy; Forbes; 13 Oct 2016

‘Crimes Against Humanity’? Who is behind the International Monsanto Tribunal circus? Julie Kelly; Genetic Literacy Project; 12 Oct 2016

Fake Trials, Brought to You by the Anti-GMO Movement JULIE KELLY; National Review; 11 Oct 2016

The International Monsanto Tribunal is being spearheaded by some of the most notable anti-GMO activists in the world, including Vandana Shiva, a physicist and author who makes lots of money telling phony stories about Indian farmers committing suicide because they planted genetically modified seeds. The stunt (held in a small school in The Hague, not the International Criminal Court) from October 14 to 16 will “hold Monsanto accountable for human-rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide.”

Migrant labour

Inside DuPont and Monsanto's Migrant Labor Camps ROBERT HOLLY; In These Times; 20 Sep 2016

An in-depth investigation reveals that multibillion-dollar Big Ag corporations—including DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto—as well as small-scale farmers routinely use labor recruiters who crowd migrant workers in housing riddled with health and safety violations, such as bed bug infestations and a lack of running water. A newly built public database of housing inspection records exposes the dramatic scope of the problem: When state inspectors visit migrant labor camps, they find violations as much as 60 percent of the time.

Discussion on Food and Farm Discussion Lab

Mutagenic Modification

Mutation Breeding Wikipedia

BASF seeks GM alternative Chemistry World - Royal Society of Chemistry; 4 Feb 2009

German chemical giant BASF has applied directed mutagenesis to develop crop plants that are tolerant to specific pesticides. Unlike traditional genetic modification methods, which introduce genes from foreign species, directed mutagenesis alters the genetic makeup of the plant through the natural process of gene repair - and so is less likely to meet resistance from regulators and environmental groups.