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Transcript of GMO
Genes are the blueprints of living organisms. Genetic engineering of foods is manipulating genetic sequences in order to make foods fit our lifestyle better.
Scientifically speaking, GMO foods have had their genes tampered with. Scientists focus on genes that affect: performance, disease/pest resistance, durability/longevity
The GMO's that are currently under public scrutiny are better defined as: Foods that have had their genes tampered with by scientists in such a way that does not (or extremely rarely) happens in nature. This includes trans-species gene additions.
The History of GMO's
The first GMO's introduced into the supermarket in 1994 was?
A. The CarNoRot Carrot
B. The Bug Beat Beet
C. The Flavr Savr Tomato
D. The Grapple
Why do we have GMO's?
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates that we need to grow 70 percent more food by 2050.
Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance.
The scientific consensus is that GMOs are as safe to eat as any other food, that they reduce soil-damaging tillage, reduce carbon emissions, reduce insecticide use, and reduce the use of the most toxic herbicides in favor of far milder ones.
Benefits and Risks of GMO
Genetically Modified Organisms in the US Food System
Political and Legal Issues
D. The Flavr Savr tomato was the first commercial food to be created with genetic modification.
Researchers found a gene that was responsible for tomatos losing their firmness. A consequential gene-silencer was then inserted into the DNA to prevent them from over-ripening and becoming soft. Whilst receiving a positive initial response the tomato never succeeded. The Flavr Savr tomato was critiqued as being bland, demand was short lived in the US, only available for just over a year. The decline in sales was partly due to taste and also increased public concerns over GMO’s. All sales of the GMO tomato and
its products ended in 1999.
Other GMO's have proven to be more successful...
Biotech was born when two Bay Area scientists, Cohen and Boyer, teamed up and took two different strains of E.Coli bacteria, that were resistant to two different types of antibiotics. The DNA of each was spliced together and the new E.Coli was resistant to both types of antibiotics.
This lead to further experiments where DNA from varying species
and even kingdoms were combined, such as splicing Toad DNA into
the DNA of bacteria.
Midway through the decade, at the Asilomar Conference, guidelines, standards and prohibitions were set for the emerging field of Biotechnology. The standards set enforced safety and containment of recombinant DNA and banned experiments with any pathogens harmful to humans, animals and plants.
The 80’s saw the US and the world setting standards around GMO’s, from various advancements in biotech to the legal system. The US Supreme Court ruled that genetically engineered organisms can be patent protected. The first in the industry to receive a patent for a GMO, was Exxon and their oil consuming bacteria.
GMO crops were created and tested, but not yet but into commercial use. Tobacco with self-contained pesticide and herbicide was one of the first genetically engineered crops -tested in the EU, China and America. America also moves ahead with testing of GMO Tomatoes.
The FDA approves its first GMO – in the form of Humulin, an insulin that is created by genetically engineered E. coli.
GMO crops begin cropping up everywhere. Tobacco is approved for commercial use in China, France and the US. Over the decade the FDA declares that GMO's are not harmful, this helps spur along an influx of GMO crops.
Monsanto rises to fame with the introduction of their patented crops.
• Soybean -with pesticide resistance.
• Corn - with insect repellant.
• Potatoes - with pesticide resistance.
• Cotton – with insect repellent.
• Papaya – with disease resistance.
The Flavr Savr Tomato is released for commercial sales.
Super weeds – weeds up to 7 times more resistant to common herbicides are found in Australia. Links are made back to the over-usage of the herbicide with the GMO crops.
Protocol is made at the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Montreal, to label shipments of exported GMO’s. The US and other large GMO producing countries, do not sign and object strongly.
Monsanto releases Alfalfa and Sugar Beets, which are pesticide and herbicide tolerant. Both were challenged in court and attracted so much backlash that regulations and certain requirements were put in place before planting either crop.
GMO resistant caterpillars are found feasting on GMO Corn, showing that a tolerance has been built.
Prop 37 which was on the California state wide election Nov 2012, whilst it didn't pass, it did increase consumers awareness of GMO’s. Maine and Connecticut have since passed laws for GMO labeling, although these laws wont be put into effect until neighboring states also sign the law.
Laws relaxed and sales of Monsanto’s GMO Alfafa and Sugar Beets begins, despite still being under question.
Syngenta releases corn genetically engineered to aid in ethanol production.
A Canadian company files to have its GMO Salmon, which is
fast growing, approved by the FDA for human consumption.
Many large US grocery chains, take a stand and commit to
not selling it should it be made available.
GMO's Through the Ages
-The US does not require GMO foods to be
labeled; 40 Million contributed annually to
Congress by food lobbyists against regulation
-64 countries worldwide do label GMOs, including China
-Scant international laws and treaties like the UN's Cartagena Protocol exist to shape transactions between nations
-The WHO and FDA have declared GMO products unlikely to cause a negative effect on human health, but the organisms still present extensive problems for biodiversity, ecological health, consumer and farmer rights, and are changing the contours of the food system. These issues have been inconsistently addressed by US and international laws.
Patents and the Rights of the Public
-The FDA has ruled that GMO crops are equivalent to traditional crops and therefore do not require labels or in some cases testing before reaching the market.
-The FDA has also ruled that GMOs are novel products and are therefore eligible for patents, contradicting the idea that they are the same as traditional crops.
-Companies like Monsanto have sued or threatened legal action against farmers whose crops may have been unintentionally contaminated with patented GMO seed.
-There are longstanding ties between Monsanto and the FDA as well as powerful lobbying efforts by groups like the GMA that have caused the US to favor the needs of agribusiness over the needs of consumers.
State of GMOs in the US
-President Obama initially supported labeling in 2007 during his campaign.
-Congress met with 200 natural food producers in 2013 to discuss regulation and urge the president to act
-In May of 2013 the Senate overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to the Farm Bill that would require labeling
-CA and WA rejected laws that would require labeling
-CT and Maine passed laws, but they are dormant until nearby states pass their own labeling laws.
Types of Gene Modifications
Annie Choi, Blair Darnell
Suzanne Kline, Elena Pogodina,
Living in the Bay Area, it is not far you have to travel to meet someone who is against eating GM foods and the production of GMO’s but at this point almost 50 years since their creation is that realistic?
GMO’s are so engrained in the US food system that it is almost impossible to avoid them, we do feel that as consumers we should have the right to know if our food contains GMO’s. That the power should not lie in the hands of profit driven agricultural or chemical companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta. The government should be trusted to support the interest of the people, through independent testing and regulation, and not base decisions for the benefit of large corporations.
We conclude that the debate around GMO’s can be seen as the tip of the iceberg and there are larger issues beyond the manipulation of organisms, such as trust that testing of GMO’s are complete and unbiased, that GMO’s are leading to resistant bugs, which in turn need stronger pesticides, which can lead to environmental hazards. It is the surrounding issues that are perhaps the ones that should be focused on. Nathaniel Johnson of Grist.com summarizes this point, acknowledging that we need to “face the fact that many of us no longer trust the people who bring us our food. Right now, our political capital is misspent if we’re only addressing GMO's narrowly without touching those larger issues.”
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Transgenic Species are the most controversial GMO's. They involve adding genes from one species to another. This horizontal gene transfer can be from plant to animal species or vice versa. Protein transfer of this type is concerning for allergy-sensitive populations. Organic Certifications do not accept transgenic GMO's. Super-salmon are a good example.