Category Archives: GMOs

USDA Approves GMO Potato For Commercial Planting

This is approval for growing the potatoes, it’s not a food safety approval. That falls under the FDA, who hasn’t weighed in yet, but is expected to shortly.

U.S.D.A. Approves Modified Potato. Next Up: French Fry Fans, Andrew Pollack, New York Times, 7 November 2014

The potatoes, which come from Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet, and Atlantic varieties, have been genetically engineered to produce less acrylamide when cooked. They also resist bruising:

GMOInnatePotato

A genetically modified Innate potato, left, made by J.R. Simplot, next to a bruised conventional potato. Source: NYT and Simplot

Here’s the notice in the federal register:

J.R. Simplot Co.; Determination of Nonregulated Status of Potato Genetically Engineered for Low Acrylamide Potential and Reduced Black Spot Bruise, US Federal Register, effective 10 November 2014.

Summary: We are advising the public of our determination that potatoes designated as Innate TM potatoes (events E12, E24, F10, F37, J3, J55, J78, G11, H37, and H50), which have been genetically engineered for low acrylamide potential (acrylamide is a human neurotoxicant and potential carcinogen that may form in potatoes and other starchy foods under certain cooking conditions) and reduced black spot bruise, are no longer considered a regulated article under our regulations governing the introduction of certain genetically engineered organisms. Our determination is based on our evaluation of data submitted by J.R. Simplot Company in its petition for a determination of nonregulated status, our analysis of available scientific data, and comments received from the public in response to our previous notices announcing the availability of the petition for nonregulated status and its associated environmental assessment and plant pest risk assessment. This notice also announces the availability of our written determination and finding of no significant impact.

Determination: APHIS has determined that Simplot’s Innate TM potatoes are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk and therefore are no longer subject to our regulations governing the introduction of certain GE organisms.

So, the USDA says they’re safe for the environment, rather, they won’t pose a threat to other plants. What about insects and other wildlife? I noted they based their determination upon data submitted by Simplot, not an independent lab.

Are they safe to eat? That’s for the FDA to determine. My guess is that the FDA will say they are. Will they be labeled as GMO? I don’t think so:

FDA believes that the new techniques are extensions at the molecular level of traditional methods and will be used to achieve the same goals as pursued with traditional plant breeding. The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding. For this reason, the agency does not believe that the method of development of a new plant variety (including the use of new techniques including recombinant DNA techniques) is normally material information within the meaning of 21 U.S.C. 321(n) and would not usually be required to be disclosed in labeling for the food.
FDA, Statement of Policy – Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties, Biotechnology Guidance Documents (Document “Last Updated: 08/15/2013”)

This is the FDA’s fall-back position, that GMO foods are not inherently different than conventionally grown foods and therefore must be as safe. Even though there have been few long-term studies, hardly any done by independent researchers, and none on humans. And even though, in the case of these potatoes:

Doug Gurian-Sherman, a plant pathologist and senior scientist at the Center for Food Safety, an advocacy group, said that the technique used to silence the genes, called RNA interference, was still not well understood.

“We think this is a really premature approval of a technology that is not being adequately regulated,” he said, adding that his group might try to get a court to reverse the approval of the potato.

The FDA does not do its own safety studies. It relies on the results of studies done by companies that seek to make a profit selling the particular GE product. How confidence-building.

Where will these potatoes end up? If FDA gives them a nod, probably in Aunt Lucy’s Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin this Christmas:

“The company will focus on sales of fresh potatoes and fresh-cut potatoes to supermarkets and food service companies and to potato chip manufacturers, said Doug Cole, a spokesman for Simplot.”

Retracted GMO Study Gets Republished In Another Journal

GMOCornMammaryTumors

Photo of mammary tumors in rats from Seralini’s study.

Remember this study? It was the first published, peer-reviewed, long-term (2-year) animal study of GM corn:

Long Term Toxicity Of A Roundup Herbicide And A Roundup-Tolerant Genetically Modified Maize, Food and Chemical Toxicology (FTC), 19 September 2012.

From Reuters:

“Rats fed on a diet containing NK603 – a seed variety made tolerant to dousings of Roundup – or given water containing Roundup at levels permitted in the United States died earlier than those on a standard diet.

The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumours, as well as severe liver and kidney damage.

The researchers said 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group.”

The publisher was hounded by Monsanto and other biotechnology supporters to retract it. Pro-GM lobbyists criticized both the study and the FCT journal for publishing it. FCT initially stood by the study but succumbed to industry pressure and retracted it in November 2013.

The study has been republished:

Republished Study: Long-Term Toxicity Of A Roundup Herbicide And A Roundup-tolerant Genetically Modified Maize, Environmental Sciences Europe, 24 June 2014

This looks terrible for the original publisher, the one that retracted it. Its review board has lost credibility. The reason given for the retraction was that the study was “inconclusive” which, of course, is not grounds for retraction.

“Unequivocally, the Editor-in-Chief found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data. … Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology.”

The study underwent a third round of peer review before being republished, and:

The republished version contains extra material addressing criticisms of the original publication. The raw data underlying the study’s findings are also published – unlike the raw data for the industry studies that underlie regulatory approvals of Roundup, which are kept secret. However, the new paper presents the same results as before and the conclusions are unchanged.

Dr Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist based in London:

Few studies would survive such intensive scrutiny by fellow scientists. … If anyone still doubts the quality of this study, they should simply read the republished paper. The science speaks for itself. If even then they refuse to accept the results, they should launch their own research study on these two toxic products that have now been in the human food and animal feed chain for many years.”

64 Countries Require GMO Labeling. The US Doesn’t.

“Currently, 64 countries around the world require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Unlike most other developed countries – such as 15 nations in the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and even China – the U.S. has no laws requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods.”
Just Label It

GMOLabelingCountries

Maybe we will have to start saying, “the U.S., except for the state of Vermont…” But even then:

“[Vermont’s] labeling requirement wouldn’t apply to many food categories, including meat, milk, restaurant fare and raw agricultural commodities that aren’t grown with genetically modified seed.”

And:

“[Vermont’s] law would also ban food makers from advertising products as “natural” when they contain GMO ingredients.”

Are GMOs natural?

The Food Industry Sues The State Of Vermont Over GMO Labeling

GMOLabelingLaw4Food Industry Associations Sue Vermont Over GMO Labeling Law, Food Safety News, 13 June 2014

National associations representing food and snack manufacturers are suing the state of Vermont over its law passed last month that will require foods produced with genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such beginning July 2016.

Vermont’s was the first “no-strings-attached” GMO labeling bill to pass in any state.

The government defends the public. Business defends profit. When business sues government it is to make money at the expense of public health. But they will somehow find a way to say the opposite:

“In a statement on the lawsuit, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) called the law “a costly and misguided measure that will set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that do nothing to advance the health and safety of consumers.”

They’re not fooling anyone:

“Today’s move by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to prevent Vermont from requiring food companies to disclose the truth about what they put in the billions of dollars’ worth of food they sell to consumers is a desperate attempt to protect corporate shareholder profits at the expense of consumers’ rights and health,” said Organic Consumers Association’s National Director Ronnie Cummins.”

Journal Retracts Study After Pressure From Biotech

GMOCornMammaryTumorsRemember this study? It was the first published, peer-reviewed, long-term (2-year) animal study of GM corn:

Long Term Toxicity Of A Roundup Herbicide And A Roundup-Tolerant Genetically Modified Maize, Food and Chemical Toxicology (FTC), 19 September 2012.

From Reuters:

“Rats fed on a diet containing NK603 – a seed variety made tolerant to dousings of Roundup – or given water containing Roundup at levels permitted in the United States died earlier than those on a standard diet.

The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumours, as well as severe liver and kidney damage.

The researchers said 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group.”

The publisher was hounded by Monsanto and other biotechnology supporters to retract it. Pro-GM lobbyists criticized both the study and the FCT journal for publishing it. FCT stood by the study.

Several months later, however, in early 2013, the FCT created a new editorial position — Associate Editor for Biotechnology — and appointed a former Monsanto employee (1997-2004), Richard E. Goodman to the post. (Both the Roundup and the GM corn used in the study are Monsanto products.) Goodman was an outsider to FCT but was fast-tracked to this new post, “bypassing the normal scientific editorial culture of gradual promotion from within.”

On November 28, 2013, the FCT announced it was retracting the study:
RETRACTED: Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize

“Unequivocally, the Editor-in-Chief found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data. … Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology.”

GMWatch says the retraction “violates the guidelines for retractions in scientific publishing set out by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and is “illicit, unscientific, and unethical.”

The story here for me is the unusual behavior of a peer-reviewed journal, and its apparent subservience to corporate money:

“It seems unlikely that scientific journals will address unaided the defects in scientific publishing at FCT and elsewhere. To do so would require confronting the fundamental problem that academic science now largely makes its money from exploiting conflicts of interest. This has become the underlying business model of science. Universities offer ‘independent’ advice to governments while taking corporate money for ‘research’. Corporations offer that money to universities, not for the knowledge it generates, but primarily for the influence it buys.”
The Goodman Affair: Monsanto Targets the Heart of Science