Wednesday, October 5, 2011

GM canola escaped

Canadian GM canola has escaped into wilds of North Dakota
By Margaret Munro
Postmedia News
October 5, 2011

Genetically modified canola has escaped from the farm and is thriving in the wild across North Dakota, according to a study that indicates there are plenty of novel man-made genes crossing the Canada-U.S. border.

GM canola was found growing everywhere from ditches to parking lots, the scientists report, with some of the highest densities along a trucking route into Canada.

“That’s where the most intense canola production is and it’s also the road that goes to the canola processing plants across the border,” said ecologist Cynthia Sagers of the University of Arkansas, referring to a canola plant in Altona, Man.

Her study stopped at the border, but Canadian research also have found “escaped” GM canola is becoming common on the Canadian prairies, and swapping man-made genes in the wild.

“Biology doesn’t know any borders,” said Rene Van Acker at the University of Guelph, who has done extensive research on the extent and behaviour of escaped GM crops in Manitoba.

For the study published Wednesday, Sagers and her colleagues drove across North Dakota and stopped every eight kilometres to see what was growing. At almost half of the 634 stops they found genetically modified canola.

[Read More…]

Friday, September 30, 2011

Food safety fears (China)

Ministry seeks to ease GM food safety fears
By Liu Linlin
Global Times, China
September 30, 2011

The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) on Thursday pledged to ensure safety of genetically modified (GM) crops amid scientists’ appeals for caution in commercializing such products.

“We will develop GM technologies in strict accordance with relevant regulations and ensure the safety of GM products,” Chen Xiaohua, a deputy MOA minister, told reporters on Thursday responding to questions on the import of GM corn from the US.

“China will continue its development of GM crops because this is an important strategic move for the whole nation,” Chen said, adding that the ministry is drawing up plans to expand corn production to meet increasing domestic demand.

According to caixin.cn, China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation imported 61,000 tons of GM corn in July 2010.

In November 2009, the MOA issued a production safety certificate to two varieties of GM rice and one of GM corn, the first such case in the country. The move sparked long-running debates about the safety of GM foods and their impact on the environment.

The three main issues surrounding GM foods according to the World Health Organization are their potential for provoking allergic reactions, transferring harmful genes to the human body and crossbreeding with other plants.

Yuan Longping, a famous agricultural scientist known as the “father of hybrid rice,” has repeatedly urged the government to proceed cautiously with any move to commercialize GM crops.

[Read More…]

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pharm Crops

Pharm Crops Ignoring Health & Environment
By Prof. Joe Cummins
ISIS Report
September 11, 2011

Pharmaceutical drug production has undergone major changes following the development and approval of drugs called ‘biologicals’ that are for the most part proteins produced by genetic engineering. Biologicals make up at least a quarter of new drug approved, though they are about twice as likely as chemical drugs to experience regulatory action following approval (see ‘Biologicals’, Wonder Drugs with Problems, SiS 42). The recombinant protein drugs are produced using viruses, bacteria, yeast, and cell cultures from insects, rodents, primates or humans. The use of genetically modified (GM) crop plants to produce biologics has been an attractive prospect because the crops are capable of producing vast quantities of recombinant proteins at low cost. There have been a large number of such transgenic ‘pharm crops’ created in the laboratory and field trialled, though none have been approved for commercial drug production. However, some have now progressed to clinical trials.

[Read More…]

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Science denied

Monsanto Denies Superinsect Science
By Tom Philpott
Mother Jones
September 8, 2011

As far back as 2002, scientists have been warning that bugs would develop resistance to Monsanto’s Bt corn.

As the summer growing season draws to a close, 2011 is emerging as the year of the superinsect—the year pests officially developed resistance to Monsanto’s genetically engineered (ostensibly) bug-killing corn [1].

While the revelation has given rise to alarming headlines, neither Monsanto nor the EPA, which regulates pesticides and pesticide-infused crops, can credibly claim surprise. Scientists have been warning that the EPA’s rules for planting the crop were too lax to prevent resistance since before the agency approved the crop in 2003. And in 2008, research funded by Monsanto itself showed that resistance was an obvious danger.

And now those unheeded warnings are proving prescient. In late July, as I reported recently, scientists in Iowa documented the existence of corn rootworms [2] (a ravenous pest that attacks the roots of corn plants) that can happily devour corn plants that were genetically tweaked specifically to kill them. Monsanto’s corn, engineered to express a toxic gene from a bacterial insecticide called Bt, now accounts for 65 percent of the corn planted in the US [3].

The superinsect scourge has also arisen in Illinois and Minnesota. “Monsanto Co. (MON)’s insect-killing corn is toppling over in northwestern Illinois fields, a sign that rootworms outside of Iowa may have developed resistance to the genetically modified crop,” reports Bloomberg [4]. In southern Minnesota, adds Minnesota Public Radio [5], an entomologist has found corn rootworms thriving, Bt corn plants drooping, in fields.

[Read More…]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

USDA/APHIS assessment

USDA/APHIS Creeping towards Regulatory Shutdown
By Prof. Joe Cummins
ISIS Report
August 30, 2011

Regulating GM crops

Genetically modified (GM) grass tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate, intended for use in golf courses, parks and athletic fields, has become a focal point for the biotech industry and academe bent on killing the regulation of GM crops.

Before going into the bluegrass saga, the basics of GM crop regulation in the United States should be outlined. First, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is entrusted to ensure the safe development of agricultural biotechnology by regulating field-testing, interstate movement, and importation of GM organisms (GMOs). APHIS determines whether a GMO is as safe for the environment as its traditional counterpart and hence can be freely used in agriculture. APHIS uses the term ‘biotechnology’ to mean recombinant DNA technology, or genetic engineering (modification) of living organisms [1]. In addition, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates several biotechnology products, including pesticides produced by plants or microorganisms and non-pesticidal substances such as industrial enzymes, biosensors, and bioremediation agents produced using microorganisms [2]. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which determined that bioengineered foods should be regulated like their conventional counterparts in 1992, has not to-date established any regulations specific to bioengineered food [3]. APHIS has undertaken regulation of the testing and release to the environment of GM crops on the basis that the GM crops must not pose a threat to unmodified crops while any threat to humans and farm animals is not considered by APHIS, or by any other agency.

[Read More…]

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