Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lesson not learned

Bt: The lesson not learned
By Janet Raloff
Science News
December 29th, 2011

Science News reported 60-plus years ago how indiscriminate use of DDT ruined that chemical’s value. Now history seems to be repeating itself with Bt

The more things change, the more they stay the same, as a Dec. 29 Associated Press report on genetically engineered corn notes. Like déjà vu, this news story on emerging resistance to Bt toxin — a fabulously effective and popular insecticide to protect corn — brings to mind articles I encountered over the weekend while flipping through historic issues of Science News.

More than a half-century ago, our magazine chronicled, real time, the emergence of resistance to DDT, the golden child of pest controllers worldwide. Now much the same thing is happening again with Bt, its contemporary agricultural counterpart. Will we never learn?

The new AP story cites rather vague references to the fact that corn genetically engineered to produce the insect-targeting Bt toxin no longer knocks out a major scourge — the Western corn rootworm — as it recently had. These beetle larvae are developing resistance to the toxin (named for its initial source, the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis). And the worst part: Early evidence of resistance occurs in secret as the voracious larvae again chomp away at roots buried beneath a masking layer of soil.

[Read More…]

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Florida’s GE mosquito threat

Floridians face genetically engineered mosquito threat
By Eric hoffman
Friends of the Earth
December 21, 2011 / Posted by:

A private firm is planning to release potentially harmful genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys as early as January, endangering human health and the environment in what would become the first-ever U.S. release of these engineered bugs.

The genetically engineered mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti, are produced by UK-based biotechnology company Oxitec so their offspring will die at a young age in an effort to lower mosquito populations and limit the spread of dengue fever. While attempts to limit the spread of disease are laudable, health, environmental and ethical challenges face what would be the first-ever release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the U.S.

Genetically engineered mosquitoes have already been released by Oxitec in the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Brazil. Despite claims that its mosquitoes are sterile and have eradicated dengue fever the mosquitoes are in fact fertile and Oxitec has never successfully eradicated dengue fever from any population. The company has only shown its technology can reduce mosquito populations in the immediate term in controlled settings. Oxitec has not proven such population reductions lead to disease eradication.

The United States could be the next testing ground for Oxitec. The company plans to release its genetically engineered mosquitoes in Key West as early as January 2012 – pending regulatory approval. Oxitec intends to release 5,000 to 10,000 genetically engineered mosquitoes over a two week period into an undisclosed 36-square-acre block – likely near the Key West Cemetery.

[Read More…]

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Coalition calls for halt

Coalition calls for FDA to halt approval of genetically engineered salmon
Press Release
Center for Food Safety
December 20, 2011

Discovery of undisclosed infection of salmon eggs calls into question company claims that GE salmon are safe for the environment

Yesterday afternoon a coalition of 11 food safety, environmental, consumer and fisheries organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) calling for a halt to its approval of a genetically engineered (GE) salmon after learning that the company’s – AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. – research site was contaminated with a new strain of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA), the deadly fish flu that is devastating fish stocks around the world.

“This new information calls into question the reliability of AquaBounty’s data and the validity of its claims that their fish are safe for the environment” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “The FDA must respond appropriately and conduct their own environmental impact statement that looks at a broad range of environmental risks from these genetically engineered salmon, including the risk of spreading diseases such as ISA and antibiotic use for other diseases.”

AquaBounty has claimed that the company’s process for raising GE fish is safer than traditional aquaculture. However, documents that were revealed last week indicate that their production site was found by Canadian Authorities to have been contaminated in Nov. 2009. This information was hidden from the public and potentially FDA and other Federal agencies consulting on the GE salmon application. ISA is a deadly disease and is classified as a ‘Listed’ disease by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) – alongside diseases such as Anthrax, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), Foot and mouth disease, rabies, sheep pox, swine fever, avian influenza, West Nile fever, scrapie, fowl cholera, bovine tuberculosis and myxomatosis.

“Infectious Salmon Anaemia threatens wild fisheries around the world and the communities whose livelihood depend on those fish” said Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth US. “ISA infections in Chile cost the industry around two billion dollars. A similar infection in Canada and the U.S. could be the last blow to wild Atlantic salmon populations and bring a collapse in wild salmon fisheries.”

The December 19 letter urged FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to release all health data on AquaBounty’s GE salmon and to suspend any approval actions until all the data is disclosed and the public has an opportunity to review the data. Additionally, the coalition asked the FDA to conduct a full environmental impact statement that includes review of the effect of fish diseases, like ISA, on wild fish populations that might come into contact with the AquaBounty fish. Currently, the FDA has only performed a less comprehensive environmental risk assessment.

This news comes on the heels of a Senate subcommittee hearing held last Thursday on the environmental risks of GE fish, the first hearing of its kind in Congress.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Proposal compromises safety

Feds’ GM food proposal compromises food safety, say groups
By Omid Ghoreishi
Epoch Times
December 18, 2011

A federal government proposal that would allow low levels of contamination from genetically modified foods from other countries is raising concerns among activist groups.

The proposed policy on “low level presence” (LLP) relates to the unintended presence in low amounts of unapproved genetically modified (GM) material in imported food.

“We think that’s a huge concern from a health safety standpoint. There is no justification for this policy from a public health point of view,” says Lucy Sharrat, coordinator of Ottawa-based Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), which is taking part in a government stakeholder consultation on the policy.

“The government is very clear that this is trade policy, and our position is that this is clearly trade policy that sacrifices food safety,” she says.

The proposal stems from an industry concern that the inevitable presence of traces of GM in imported food that has been approved in one country but not in the country of import could disrupt international trade.

[Read More…]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Modified plants escape

Modified plants found outside laboratories
swissinfo.ch
December 16, 2011

Spot checks conducted in 2011 found “isolated examples” of genetically modified plants near research laboratories and a station in different places in Switzerland.

The Federal Environment Office said on Friday that the plants had been dug up immediately, and there had been no contamination.

The plants found near laboratories belonging to the universities of Lausanne, Basel and Zurich were thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), which is often used in studying plant biology, since any changes in it are easily observed.

The universities were informed and asked to discover how the plants got out.

Genetically modified rape was found at the station in Lugano. The canton was asked to discover where it came from.

A statement by the environment office said the discoveries were “no great surprise”.

“Laboratories and communications routes are possible ways in which genetically modified plants are spread,” it pointed out.

They were detected by a monitoring system set up by the office to discover any early release of such plants into the environment. The system is being introduced ahead of the planned lifting of a moratorium on growing genetically modified crops in November 2013.

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