GMO news related to the United States

17.09.2019 |

Gene-edited animals will intensify factory farming and the climate crisis, could harm human health

New report highlights urgent need for safety assessments, oversight


WASHINGTON — A new report from Friends of the Earth and Logos Environmental reveals that the use of gene editing in farm animals poses risks to human health, the environment and animal welfare. The report comes on the heels of research by the FDA showing that gene-edited hornless cattle have unexpected antibiotic resistant genes, despite researchers’ original claims that they did not contain any genetic errors. This new report sheds light on the unintended consequences of gene editing and considers the implications for U.S. regulations.

Many genetically engineered farm animals are currently in development, funded by private companies or governments and enabled by new gene editing technologies such as CRISPR. Examples include super-muscly cows and pigs, hornless cattle, chickens and pigs made to resist certain diseases, cows with human genes, and other genetic experiments. Production of these gene-edited farm animals is often done with little public awareness or input.

14.09.2019 |

Monsanto’s Spies

The agri-chemical giant has a storied history of using shady tactics to attack critics and influence the media.

It was early March when other reporters first noticed Sylvie Barak. About a half a dozen journalists were in a northern California courtroom to cover a third lawsuit alleging that Monsanto’s pesticide glyphosate causes cancer.

Barak told others that she was a freelancer for the BBC. She was friendly and helpful, listened earnestly as reporters discussed their private lives; she offered parenting tips and shared her thoughts on the trial.

12.08.2019 |

FDA Finds Unexpected Antibiotic Resistance Genes in 'Gene-Edited' Dehorned Cattle

By Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD

Gene-editing is seen by many as the ultimate in precision breeding. Polled cattle, whose horns have been genetically removed, have been presented as exemplars of this–a socially beneficial use of precise genome engineering. Such hornless cattle were produced in 2016 by Recombinetics, Inc., of St. Paul, Minnesota, a development that was reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology (Carlson et al, 2016).

In that publication, Recombinetics researchers reported detecting no unexpected alterations, such as insertions or deletions of DNA, as a result of the gene-editing procedure. They concluded “our animals are free of off-target events” (Carlson et al, 2016).

09.08.2019 |

Gene-edited hornless cattle: Flaws in the genome overlooked

New techniques for genetic engineering are not as precise as claimed

Cattle are being genetically engineered using gene-editing tools to not grow horns. But according to newly published research by experts at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), gene-editing errors in the genome of these cattle are often being overlooked (see abstract below).

The animals were genetically engineered by the biotech company Recombinetics. The company also filed a patent on the genetically engineered cattle. The cattle have for some years been hyped as a positive application of new genetic engineering techniques and a boon for animal welfare, since these GM cattle will not need to be de-horned. However, it appears to have so far gone unnoticed that the gene-editing has resulted in major unintended outcomes.

Unintended effects

The gene editing scissors (nucleases) used in this case are known as TALENs, a method frequently described as highly precise, and indeed, no off-target genetic changes were detected by the developers of these hornless cattle at Recombinetics.

06.08.2019 |

The ethical landscape of gene drive research

Abstract

Gene drive technology has immense potential. The ability to bypass the laws of Mendelian inheritance and almost ensure the transmission of specific genetic material to future generations creates boundless possibilities. But alongside these boundless possibilities are major social and ethical issues. This article aims to introduce gene drive technology, some of its potential applications, and some of the social and ethical issues that arise during research into the technology. For example, is investigation into gene drives hubristic? Would applications of gene drives count as technological fixes? Or does research into such a technology sit on a slippery slope or lock us in to its full‐scale use? Are there perverse effects of engaging in research, and, most importantly, who ought to be included in the decision‐making process regarding research and field trials? Understanding the basic ethical landscape of this technology will prove invaluable to the public, scientists, and policy‐makers as research moves forward.

18.07.2019 |

Trees, GE Trees and Nature to Save Capitalism from Itself: new report out

Trees to Solve the World’s Problems?

From Genetically Engineered Trees for the Bioeconomy – to the Trillion Tree Proposal and Business for Nature

By Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project

This report examines events and research publicized between 23 June and 4 July 2019 that discuss the mass-use of trees to enable the unsustainable lifestyles of the world’s top 1% in the face of looming ecological catastrophe: from trees genetically engineered to feed the “green” manufacture of energy, plastics and chemicals; the planting of trillions of trees to reduce global atmospheric carbon levels; and “reforms” to the economic system to allow future profit-making under the guise of biodiversity protection.

The three events where these proposals were brought out were the International Union of Forest Research Organization’s 2019 Tree Biotechnology Conference 23-29 June at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, The Global Tree Restoration Potential, a new study published on 4 July in Science, and the launch of Business for Nature initiatives in China and Norway on 2 July.

08.06.2019 |

USDA investigates unapproved GMO wheat found in Washington state

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed the discovery of unapproved, genetically modified (GM) wheat plants growing in an un-planted agricultural field in Washington state.

There was no evidence the wheat had entered the food supply, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a statement on Friday. The wheat is resistant to glyphosate, a widely used herbicide commonly referred to as Roundup.

“USDA is collaborating with our state, industry and trading partners, and we are committed to providing all our partners with timely and transparent information about our findings,” the statement said.

There are currently no commercially approved genetically modified wheat varieties, and incidences of rogue plants are rare. However, unapproved plants were found in 2018 in Alberta, Canada, in 2016 in Washington state, in 2014 in Montana and in 2013 in Oregon.

07.06.2019 |

Save Our Food. Free the Seed.

Not long ago I was sitting in a combine tractor on a 24,000-acre farm in Dazey, N.D. The expanse of the landscape — endless rows of corn and soybeans as precise as a Soviet military parade — was difficult to ignore. So were the skyscraper-tall storage silos and the phalanx of 18-wheeled trucks ready to transport the grain. And yet what held my attention were the couple of dozen seeds in my palm — the same seeds cultivated all around me.

(.....)

More than 90 percent of the 178 million acres of corn and soybeans planted last year in the United States were sown with genetically engineered seeds. It’s a vision as dispiriting as it is unappetizing.

Vegetables have been spared some of this genetic tinkering but are increasingly victim to the same aggressive corporate seed environment. Last year the pharmaceutical company Bayer acquired the world’s largest vegetable seed company, Monsanto.

For these megacompanies, capturing a large share of the vegetable seed market means capturing patentable genetics. Since 2001, the scope of utility patents has expanded to include novel plant traits. (Before this, you could own a variety, but not its traits, in the same way that you can own a beachfront property but not the particles of sand.)

31.05.2019 |

Are New Genetically Modified Techniques the Future of Food and Farming?

I first met Jim Thomas, Co-Director of the ETC Group, at a Sustainable Ag and Food Systems Funders conference. Jim had been tracking emerging technologies and their intersection with food and agriculture for some time. When I first heard him speak, in his lilting almost playful cadence, about something called “synthetic biology,” my ears perked up.

He was talking about a new form of genetic engineering that can alter genetics on a worldwide scale – one with little or no government oversight.

(.....)

What are these next generation of GMO’s?

Biosynthesized Ingredients or “Synthetic Biology” modifies algae, yeast or bacteria to produce high-value products such as flavors, fragrances or dietary supplements. Once modified, the yeast or algae is fed starch or sugar (usually GMO corn or sugar), and the “natural” process of fermentation begins.

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Gene Drives is a controversial technology that changes an organism so that it will ALWAYS pass on those genetically engineered traits to all future generations. Future generations, in turn, will pass it on until it changes the entire population forever.

Imagine the power to change the genetics of entire populations – we now have that power.

With gene drives, we can change or even eradicate entire species from the planet.

24.04.2019 |

Local company stirs controversy through marketing gene-edited foods

A company co-founded by a University professor has begun distributing gene-edited soybean oil, which is used by an undisclosed Midwest food chain.

Because of the contributions to one company by a University of Minnesota professor, a major Midwest food chain is quietly introducing a genetically edited soybean oil, causing controversy in the agriculture and food industries.

The oil was invented by the Minnesota-based biotechnology company Calyxt, which was co-founded by University professor Dan Voytas.The release of this oil has sparked debate among food industry experts and activists about whether gene-edited foods should be subject to the same regulations as food containing genetically modified organisms.

According to an Associated Press article published last month, an undisclosed Midwest fast food chain is using this soybean oil in food preparation. Gene-edited foods are not regulated like GMOs, and critics worry this may lead to unforeseen environmental consequences and health impacts.

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Dana Perls is the senior food and agriculture campaigner with Friends of the Earth, an organization that advocates for sustainable and organic agriculture practices. Perls said the consequences of gene-editing can be dire and that gene-editing should be classified as genetic modification.

“Many of these genetic engineering proposals are being bolstered by company PR and investor hype. There is robust scientific evidence that shows new genetic engineering techniques like gene-editing are resulting in potentially dangerous consequences and genetic havoc, genetic mutation and unpredictable consequences,” Perls said.

The fact that Calyxt will not disclose the identity of the major food chain for what they claim are competitive reasons is a concern to Perls. It is unknown whether that restaurant discloses to consumers they use gene-edited food products.

“We need a model for strong regulation and we need to let consumers know what they’re eating. People deserve the right to decide what they’re feeding their families and themselves,” Perls said.

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