News

2018-10-26 |

Former EFSA GMO Panel member says GM Bt crop toxin allergy study is solid

A former member of the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA's) GMO panel, Jean-Michel Wal, has said that a study suggesting that GM Bt crops could be allergenic has "solid scientifically grounded results", according to a report in EU Food Policy.

The study performed in mice found that the GM Bt toxin Cry1Ac is immunogenic, allergenic, and able to induce anaphylaxis (a severe allergic response that can result in suffocation).

Dr Wal was a member of the GMO panel until July. He issued two minority Opinions during his time at EFSA, arguing that risk assessments of the potential allergenicity of the new proteins expressed in stacked-trait GMOs were inadequate and based on assumptions rather than data.

2018-10-24 |

GMO – Are authorisations of sub-combinations legal?

In the EU, the risk assessment of GMOs is no longer systematically associated with the requirement to provide data. This is how the recent evolution in the field of GMOs could be summarised. After having described this evolution through emblematic applications for commercial authorisation, Inf’OGM focuses on this issue from a legal point of view.

Since 2013, commercial authorisations covering both a GMO with several transformation events (GMO ABC for example, called stacked GMO) and the GMOs combining the transformation events of the stacked GMO (GMOs AB, BC, and AC) have multiplied. However, Regulation 1829/2003 – on which most commercial authorisations are based – is silent on the question whether a single decision can authorise the commercialisation of several GMOs.

In 2013, the entry into force of Regulation 503/2013 put an end to this silence. The Regulation requires that “the applications for genetically modified food and feed from segregating crops [...] include all subcombinations independently of their origin and not yet authorised . This cleared the way for a preferential treatment of sub-combinations and for an exponential growth of the number of GMOs authorised in the European Union.

2018-10-22 |

Will EU Commission allow import of new Baysanto "monster" maize?

GM maize is super-resistant to herbicides and produces six insecticidal toxins

EU Member States will today vote on whether a new GM maize that is super-resistant to the herbicides glyphosate and glufosinate and produces six insecticides can be imported. The maize is produced by crossing five different GM plants. Bayer wants approval for import and use in food and feed. The health impacts resulting from the specific combination of potential toxic substances have not been investigated.

The GM maize was produced by Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer. The maize is part of a business strategy to market the herbicide and patented seeds as a package: the plants inherit duplicate genes for glyphosate and glufosinate resistance and each of the herbicides can therefore be sprayed at higher dosages. As a result, in addition to the insecticidal proteins produced in the plants, the harvested kernels may have a high load of herbicide residues from spraying.

The potential detrimental effects on health from the consumption of food and feed derived from these maize plants were not tested in any feeding study. The EU Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are of the opinion that in general such combinatorial effects do not require investigation.

2018-10-18 |

GMOs in the Aloha State: Biotech’s Passion for Hawaii

Many images may come to mind when one thinks of Hawaii: tropical beaches, big wave surfing, a fruity beverage underneath palm trees swaying in a light breeze…But what about GMOs? Would it surprise you to know that the Hawaiian Islands have been home to some of the largest GMO experiments in the United States—most of which have nothing to do with the highly celebrated Rainbow Papaya?

Hawaiian Agriculture in a Macadamia Nutshell

Since the arrival of Captain Cook in the 18th century, Hawaiian agriculture has been dominated by foreign interests. Native Hawaiians were increasingly alienated from their land and natural resources as plantation crop agriculture flourished. While remnants of the sugarcane and pineapple industries can still be seen on the islands today, the majority of the plantations have given way to a new type of agriculture: seed crops.

2018-10-17 |

CRISPR causes greater genetic damage than previously thought

Caution required for using CRISPR in potential gene therapies – and food plants

Scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute have discovered that CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing can cause greater genetic damage in cells than was previously thought. These results create safety implications for gene therapies using CRISPR/Cas9 in the future as the unexpected damage could lead to dangerous changes in some cells. Potential consequences could include triggering cancer.

Reported on 16 July 2018 in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the study also revealed that standard tests for detecting DNA changes miss finding this genetic damage, and that caution and specific testing will be required for any potential gene therapies.

As usual we see far more honesty about the off-target effects of CRISPR from genetic engineers in the field of medical research than we see from the plant genetic engineers. However, the technique as used in plants is the same, as are the mechanisms of DNA repair. These off-target effects in food plants could have possible knock-on effects on food safety, including unexpected toxicity and allergenicity.

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