A handful of scientists around the United States are trying to do something that some people find disturbing: make embryos that are part human, part animal. The researchers hope these embryos, known as chimeras, could eventually help save the lives of people with a wide range of diseases. "We're not trying to make a chimera just because we want to see some kind of monstrous creature," says Pablo Ross, a reproductive biologist at the University of California, Davis. "We're doing this for a biomedical purpose."
Mexico’s unique and treasured native corn varieties could be under threat as Monsanto, the world’s largest seed producer, vies to plant genetically modified (GMO) corn in the country. In August 2015, a Mexican judged overturned a September 2013 ban on GMO corn, thus opening more business opportunities for Monsanto and other agribusinesses pending favorable later court decisions. Monsanto even announced in October 2015 that it was seeking to double its sales in the country over the next five years. The GMO corn ban remains pending a ruling on the appeal, but a final decision could end up in Mexico’s supreme court.
Iowa State University researchers are moving ahead with a long-delayed project in which a dozen students will be paid to eat one genetically modified banana each. Earlier this week, activists delivered petitions calling on the project’s halt to university officials and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is funding the project. The activists said more than 57,000 people signed the petition. “ISU students are being asked to be the first to consume a product of unknown safety,” the activists said in a prepared statement. “The study is not being conducted in a transparent manner, and concerned ISU community members have not been able to receive answers about the research design, risks, nature of the informed consent given by the subjects and the generalizability of the study.” The trial is expected to take place sometime this year.
Jackson County, Oregon, has just joined the small but growing ranks of “GE-free zones” in the U.S., which prohibit the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops. It’s at least the eighth county in the country to create such an ordinance, and efforts are springing up to pass similar measures in other places. The Jackson County designation was made final on Dec. 22, when a federal judge approved a consent decree protecting the zone.
They’re being decimated by an incurable fungus. Some scientists think they have an answer—genetic engineering—but will it be tasteless “frankenfruit”? When most people speak of bananas, they’re thinking of a single variety—the yellow Cavendish banana found in almost all grocery stores. But the popularity of this banana has made it susceptible to a fungal disease known as Tropical Race 4 (TR4), which is quickly spreading across the globe and is likely to hit South America, where 80% of Cavendish bananas are grown. The effort to quarantine fungus-ridden plants has largely failed, so researchers are exploring other options. Fortunately, other banana varieties still exist and are often much more flavorful than the Cavendish. Keep in mind also that in nature, flavor is often closely associated with nutritional value. It is no coincidence that the Cavendish, selected for ease of transport and sale, not taste, is often both tasteless and low in nutrition.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the pervasive herbicide, Roundup. Its usage on crops to control weeds in the United States and elsewhere has increased dramatically in the past two decades. The increase is driven by the increase over the same time period in the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, the widespread emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds among the GM crops (necessitating ever-higher doses to achieve the same herbicidal effect), as well as the increased adoption of glyphosate as a desiccating agent just before harvest. GM crops include corn, soy, canola (rapeseed), and sugar beet. Crop desiccation by glyphosate includes application to non-GM crops such as dried peas, beans, and lentils. It should be noted that the use of glyphosate for pre-harvest staging for perennial weed control is now a major crop management strategy. The increase in glyphosate usage in the United States is extremely well correlated with the concurrent increase in the incidence and/or death rate of multiple diseases, including several cancers. These include thyroid cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia. The World Health Organization (WHO) revised its assessment of glyphosate's carcinogenic potential in March 2015, relabeling it as a "probable carcinogen."
The floodgates are open for more genetically modified animals—possibly even humans. Last week saw the approval of another genetically modified animal— this time a chicken genetically altered to produce a drug in its eggs. The drug is designed to replace a faulty enzyme in people with a rare genetic condition that prevents the body from breaking down fatty molecules in cells. This is the stuff of dystopian science fiction stories, and we may be approaching such a world faster than we think.
Is Chick-fil-A food "better fast food?" Do the GMOs, trans fats, additives and preservatives in virtually all the products say otherwise? And how is it that this corporation is allowed to place its mascot squarely in the middle of our children's place of education?
Autumn is the end of the growing season and time for farmers to plan for next year's seed orders. If hybrid seeds are being planted chances are some might be genetically engineered and technically genetically modified organisms (GMOs) according to a growing movement in the organic agricultural field. In organic farming, transgenic (between different biological families) genetic engineering (GE) is banned, but cisgenic (within the same species family) GE used in the cell fusion process is permitted under USDA organic regulations. By international organic certification standards cell fusion is classified as genetic engineering, but these standards established by The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) are being ignored by the United States, Europe and other countries. The organic farming industry and their organizations are conflicted and struggling with the conundrum that organic production relies on CMS F1 hybrid seeds. How is it that a cisgenic cell fusion process using the DNA of a sterile male plant (CMS) resulting in a F1 hybrid is not a genetically modifying process? These hybrids are developed with unregulated biotechnological DNA mutagenic techniques which might be non-GMO in the legal framework, but are process viewed as against the organic farming background and principals banning the use of genetic engineering. Farmers wanting to avoid genetically engineered seed and protect their crop's organic integrity have no way of knowing if their seeds are cisgenically processed GMOs without a government cisgenic GE labeling requirement.
Half of the European Union’s 28 countries and three of its regions have opted out of a new GM crop scheme, in a blow to biotech industry hopes. Under new EU rules agreed in March, 15 countries have now told Brussels they will send territorial exclusion requests to the big agricultural multinationals including Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and Pioneer. Applications from Latvia and Greece have already been accepted by the firms and if that pattern is extended, around two-thirds of of the EU’s population – and of its arable land – will be GM-free.