Archive for GM

GM Issues: UK

Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op yesterday ended bans on giving ‘Frankenstein Feed’ to farm animals producing meat, milk and eggs.The three retailers were the last of the big food chains to be holding out against the use of controversial GM crops on their farms.

The change means that the vast majority of meat, milk and eggs sold by Britain’s supermarkets will come from animals raised on a GM diet. Alarmingly, none of these products will be labelled as coming from GM-fed animals in what critics call a disaster for consumer choice.

GM crop farming has been shown to harm bees, butterflies and other insects in UK trials and on farms across the US, where many have become blighted with superweeds.

In 2011, a team of doctors in Canada found that toxins implanted into GM food crops to kill pests were reaching the bloodstreams of women and unborn babies. Yesterday the Mail revealed that Tesco is ending its ban on the use of GM soya for chickens producing meat and eggs.
Along with most other retailers, Tesco already allows GM feed to be given to other farm animals. The stores claim the reason for the U-turn is not a sudden conversion to GM, but rather they and farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to find supplies that are non-GM.

Biotech firms such as Monsanto have ensured that 80 per cent of the soya grown in the US and Brazil is genetically modified.

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The Elephant In The Room

A virus gene that could be poisonous to humans has been missed when GM food crops have been assessed for safety.

GM crops such as corn and soya, which are being grown around the world for both human and farm animal consumption, include the gene.

A new study by the EU’s official food watchdog, the European Food Safety Authority(EFSA), has revealed that the international approval process for GM crops failed to identify the gene. As a result, watchdogs have not investigated its impact on human health and the plants themselves when assessing whether they were safe. The findings are particularly powerful because the work was carried out by independent experts, rather than GM critics.

It was led by Nancy Podevin, who was employed by EFSA, and Patrick du Jardin, of the Plant Biology Unit at the University of Liege in Belgium.

They discovered that 54 of the 86 GM plants approved for commercial growing and food in the US, including corn and soya, contain the viral gene, which is known as ‘Gene VI’. In this country, these crops are typically fed to farm animals producing meat, milk and eggs. Significantly, the EFSA researchers concluded that the presence of segments of Gene VI ‘might result in unintended phenotypic changes’. Such changes include the creation of proteins that are toxic to humans. They could also trigger changes in the plants themselves, making them more vulnerable to pests.

Critics say the revelations make clear that the GM approvals process, which has been in place for 20 years, is fatally flawed.

They argue the only correct response is to recall all of the crops and food products involved. Director of the campaigning group, GM Freeze, Pete Riley, said the discovery of the gene, ‘totally undermines claims that GM technology is safe, precise and predictable’. He said: ‘This is a clear warning the GM is not sufficiently understood to be considered safe. ‘Authorisation for these crops must be suspended immediately, and they should be withdrawn from sale, until a full and extended review of their safety has been carried out.’

Typically, GM crops are modified in the laboratory to give them resistance to being sprayed with powerful weed killers such as Monsanto’s Round-up. This means that, in theory, fields can be doused with the chemical, so wiping out the weeds and allowing the food plants to thrive.

The modification process involves inserting genes into the plants using a technique that allows them to piggyback on viruses that are commonly found in the soil and plants. It has been assumed that virus genes are not present in the plant once it is grown in the field and reaches consumers, however it is now clear that this is not the case. A review of the EFSA research in Independent Science News said the presence of the viral gene appears to have been missed by biotech companies, universities and government regulators. ‘This situation represents a complete and catastrophic system failure,’ it said. ‘There are clear indications that this viral gene might not be safe for human consumption. It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance. ‘A reasonable concern is that the protein produced by Gene VI might be a human toxin. This is a question that can only be answered by future experiments.’

Biotech supporters argue that there is no evidence from countries such as the USA that eating GM food causes any harm.

However, the reality is that no health monitoring has taken place to establish this. The findings will embarrass the government and the food and farming Secretary, Owen Patterson, who has embarked on a pro-GM propaganda exercise designed to win over sceptical consumers.

Mr Patterson recently rejected public concerns as ‘humbug’ and ‘complete nonsense’. Policy director at the Soil Association, Peter Melchett said: ‘For years, GM companies have made a deliberate and chilling effort to stop independent scientists from looking at their products.

‘This is what happens when there is a complete absence of independent scrutiny of their GM crops.’ Biotech firms are represented by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council(ABC).


In response to the above this is what the chairman Dr Julian Little said:

Its chairman, Dr Julian Little, said the EFSA study was one small part of a strict and complex scrutiny process. He said: ‘Over the past 25 years, the European Commission has funded more than 130 research projects involving 500 independent research groups which have found no higher risks to the environment or food chain from GM crops than from conventional plants and organisms. ‘Furthermore, nearly three trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten without a single substantiated case of ill-health. The combination of these two facts can give consumers a huge amount of confidence in the safety of GM crops.’

My answer to his comment would be:

Sometimes changes caused within human systems can take many years to develop and create illness. Smoking and drinking for example does not tend to kill one immediately, but over a period of years, during which time mutations have occurs slowly, it can do. I would suggest that we may not know the outcome of GM until perhaps 50-70 years have passed and perhaps by that time it may be too late to turn back.

The companies dismissal and bullying tactics of people’s concerns and arrogance towards farmers and food growers is shown in court cases and well documented. We have no idea what GM can mean for the diversity of crops that have taken thousands of years to evolve naturally. There is no way of containing GM crops and separating them from non GMO crops, as court cases prove. And I am always wary when hugely wealthy and powerful corporate interests use their muscle to intimidate and silence intelligent debate and scientific research. Their attitudes are not acceptable and not conducive to further research and debate in democratic processes. The very fact that these are being rushed in; and that debate and research is stifled suggests that GM companies do not hold full confidence that effects will not be forthcoming and thus feels unable to be totally open with the public consumers.

Farmers were told that by the GM companies, there would be a decreased need for pesticides. This has proven not to be the case, and indeed, ever more pesticides are required. This too has a knock on effect on human health, and is now suspected in contributing towards the decline of bee colonies around the world.  GM also carries the killer gene which makes it impossible for farmers to practise saving their seeds to sow again the following year, a practise which has been carried out by farmers for thousands of years. This means that farmers in some of the poorest countries in the world are no longer able to reserve seed and sow the next year, thus impelling them to buy seed from the companies at whatever price those companies decide to charge.

I would suggest that we are only know beginning to understand the vastly complex interactions of all life, and that we are still way too ignorant to be messing about with what we do not as yet fully understand. And that it is way to early to be assertive that there are no ill effects to human health.

A report in a daily newspaper recently suggested that even if we choose organic products over others, our food chains are now so tainted that it is almost impossible to know that we are being GM free in our consumption. If we eat at restaurants, buy any prepackaged food, or processed foods then we are very likely to be consuming GM unwittingly. And this is certainly true, as it is impossible for us to know what goes into some foods, jellies, biscuits, yoghurt, cooking oils… Coming from farming I know that the bees do not keep within the confines of a GM crop. They fly around, they also stop at non GM plants…and their little wings and feet also pollinate them…the sprays of the GM drift on the wind across the field to the next door field…the GM fed animal will also end up in meat by products…

So this is the elephant in the room really, and nanotechnology is another one just as big. And to Owen Patterson, I would say “why are our concerns regarding our own health and the health of our children and grandchildren…humbug and complete nonsense?


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