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Biotech News Science

Hidden Viral Gene Discovered In GMO Crops 391

Posted by Soulskill
from the food-is-tasty-in-proportion-to-how-much-it's-trying-to-kill-you dept.
Jeremiah Cornelius writes "Researchers with the European Food Safety Authority discovered variants of the Cauliflower mosaic virus 35S in the most widely harvested varieties of genetically-modified crops, including Monsanto's RoundupReady Soy and Maze. According to the researchers, Podevin and du Jardin, the particular 'Gene VI' is responsible for a number of possible consequences that could affect human health, including inhibition of RNA silencing and production of proteins with known toxicity. The EFSA is endorsing 'retrospective risk assessment' of CaMV promoter and its Gene VI sequences — in an attempt to give it a clean bill of health. It is unknown if the presence of the hidden viral genes were the result of laboratory contamination or a possible recombinant product of the resultant organism. There are serious implications for the production of GMO for foodstuffs, given either possibility."
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Hidden Viral Gene Discovered In GMO Crops

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  • by shaitand (626655) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:16PM (#42663297) Journal

    Can't be all bad.

    • by eksith (2776419) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:20PM (#42663359) Homepage
      ...Will also screw those eating their products. Please resist the temptation to treat this so light-heartedly as just another case of hubris. These things affect not just one or two lives, but entire communities and even a couple of generations.
      • by nrasch (303043) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:30PM (#42663483)

        ...Will also screw those eating their products. Please resist the temptation to treat this so light-heartedly as just another case of hubris. These things affect not just one or two lives, but entire communities and even a couple of generations.

        Oh I wouldn't worry about the light-heated treatment of hubris. I'm sure Monsanto will pull of bunch of political strings, make some key campaign donations, and this whole thing will be forgotten. Maybe you forgot how things work here in the USA....

        In the meantime, be sure to stock up on corn and soy products!

        • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @08:01PM (#42663847)

          By placing this virus into Monsanto's Family-Friendly (TM) products, we ensure that a robust resistance to viruses is present not only in our corn, but in the very bodies of the children you love -- and Monsanto love -- so dearly. We've shown that this genetic profile is safe in the lab, safe in the field, and safe in the human body.

          Monsanto. Family Friendly. (TM)

          *eagles*

      • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:36PM (#42663541)

        ...Will also screw those eating their products.

        Seriously?

        According to the source linked by TFA:

        Multiple variants of the Cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter (P35S) are used to drive the expression of transgenes in genetically modified plants, for both research purposes and commercial applications.

        So, right away we learn that it wasn't a "hidden viral gene". Its known and expected that P35S would be present.

        A bioinformatic analysis was performed to assess the safety for human and animal health of putative translation products of gene VI overlapping P35S. No relevant similarity was identified between the putative peptides and known allergens and toxins, using different databases.

        So again, nothing that might be been produced (but in fact have not been seen - hence "putative") by this gene's presence was found.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @07:44AM (#42668015) Homepage

          Its known and expected that P35S would be present.

          It is only supposed to be present in the lab, the actual crop you grown isn't supposed to have it. They use it during development only.

          So again, nothing that might be been produced (but in fact have not been seen - hence "putative") by this gene's presence was found.

          ... in some databases. It is not certified for human consumption, and they are not scrambling to get that certification. So what TFA is saying is that on paper it looks okay but needs proper testing to determine if that is in fact the case.

          Monsanto screwed up big time. They put something in our food that isn't known to be safe and that wasn't supposed to be there. The proper thing would be to destroy all affected crops and produce, but that would be expensive and Monsanto would have to pay vast compensation so instead they are just hoping that it turns out to be safe, or if not that they can bribe the relevant people.

      • by bistromath007 (1253428) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:37PM (#42663561)
        Actually, anything that screws Monsanto will greatly benefit the communities eating their products taking any view longer than about a week and a half. If there is any corp that can be rightly described as pure evil far beyond what is necessary to just make a profit, it's that one.
      • by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @08:21PM (#42664033) Journal

        allowing monsanto to exist has *already* screwed us. Getting rid of them will simply get us past the hump of all the problems and shit they brought about in the first place. If you think we're living because of monsanto crops, you're mistaken. sustainable solutions (and life as we know it) has existed for thousands and thousands of years without them.

  • Is it in non GMO? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:22PM (#42663379)

    But is it found in non-GMO plants? We've seen latent genes from virii in many plants and animals.

    • Re:Is it in non GMO? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dahamma (304068) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @09:04PM (#42664443)

      It's beyond that - a significant fraction of your DNA is fragments of virii. And a recombinant virus is the most common way of introducing new DNA for gene therapy.

      And further, this article is idiotic. The Caulilflower mosaic viral promoter is the most common mechanism for inserting genes into GMO, so of COURSE it's going to be present, that's common knowledge to anyone in the field. Now whether it's healthy or not is a different issue..

  • What do you have to say now, Mark Lynas [slashdot.org]? Maybe you should have waited another couple of weeks ...
    • While you'd have held my interest if your argument was, "In nature's humble opine, there are too many great hominoid's for the balance of present resources and ecosystems." , the convenient renouncing of a former cheerleader falls south of the too-good-to-be-true bar. Npsqiz tbzt, 'if there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.'
  • by kawabago (551139) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:23PM (#42663387)
    The danger with GMO crops is what we don't know about gene splicing and the like. This is a prime example of my point. Despite all their supposed safe guards, genes with unknown potential have entered the food chain. This might be the next BSE in the food supply.
    • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:36PM (#42663539)

      This is true of many things in life. It reminds me of a line from a Wendell Berry work which stuck with me, albeit not verbatim. It was something along the lines of, 'Wisdom is knowing what to do in state of ignorance.' His point was the technical knowledge we've accumulated can sometimes blind us to the possible consequences of our overwhelming ignorance in a complex universe, even as the same knowledge gives us ever greater ability to make those consequences worse.

      Even if such a thought doesn't stop someone from acting, if it gives them pause long enough to find a way to act more prudently, I think it good.

    • by robbak (775424) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:53PM (#42663743) Homepage

      Contamination of a organisms genetics with pieces of virus DNA happens in nature ALL THE TIME. It is only because this is a GMO crop that it was tested, and found.

      When the testing is finished, this may well be found to be a bit of perfectly natural, happened in the field, no-scientists-required genetic mangling.

      The only difference with GM is it is done in a carefully controlled manner with a known goal, and carefully tested to determine any unwanted side effects. Random, uncontrolled genetic modification, whose consequences are totally unknowable, is completely natural.

      As it is, one of the later posters linked to an article that actually looked at the research paper in question. It searched the known genomes for known toxic genomes, and found nothing. It found one possible thing that might be allergenic, looked at it further and ruled it out as well.

      In the end, they found a possible cause for a GMO to be less effective - stunted growth, late flowering - and concluded that this is something that geneticists should look out for.

      To finish, we have yet another study that shows how GM is completely safe. And how the media is totally untrustworthy when it comes to providing information. OH, and the article makes my point about natural virus proteins, too.

    • by Dahamma (304068) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @09:10PM (#42664503)

      Except, NO, it wasn't accidentally introduced, and anyone who is interested could have easily known this - it's even in the Wikipedia article for CMV [wikipedia.org]!

      The promoter of the 35S RNA is a very strong constitutive promoter responsible for the transcription of the whole CaMV genome. It is well known for its use in plant transformation. It causes high levels of gene expression in dicot plants. However, it is less effective in monocots, especially in cereals. The differences in behavior are probably due to differences in quality and/or quantity of regulatory factors. The promoter was named CaMV 35S promoter ("35S promoter") because the coefficient of sedimentation of the viral transcript, whose expression is naturally driven by this promoter, is 35S. It is one of the most widely used, general-purpose constitutive promoters. It was discovered at the beginning of the 1980s, by Chua and collaborators at the Rockefeller University.

      This study basically just "discovered" something that has already been the basis of much of the research and industry around gene insertion in plants for 30 years. Wow.

    • by fluffy99 (870997)

      The danger with GMO crops is what we don't know about gene splicing and the like. This is a prime example of my point. Despite all their supposed safe guards, genes with unknown potential have entered the food chain. This might be the next BSE in the food supply.

      Not been paying too much attention have you? The GMO has _fragments_ of this virus, the purpose of which has been repeated over and over in this thread. It's also been pointed out a few times that the _entire_ virus is often found in non-GMO crops.

  • this has been kicking around for ~20 years. have we seen health effects that can be attributed to this particular gene sequence yet?

    btw, slashdot, you're a bit slow on the uptake with this one. this story has been on my facebook feed for a couple of days.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There has been an increase in the last couple decades of gastrointestinal cancers affecting younger people. So, maybe. The cause(s) of this increase in GI cancer, among the young, has not been found yet.

    • by c0lo (1497653)
      I'm not a biologist, but digesting the cauliflower should result in breaking the proteins in simple aminoacids. So I guess we should be safe unless:
      a. the gene drives the cauliflower in producing toxins - does it?
      b. you inspire or inject in you bloodstream bits of cauliflower (or have rough unprotected sex with the cauliflower, so bits of it will get into you bloodstream through the ensuing friction rashes) and trigger an allergic reaction

      I don't think it is likely to see cauliflower multiplying as virus

  • My first thought is to ask whether it's a product of the genetic modifications, or if all plants have some of it. Is the cauliflower mosaic virus used in genetic modification?

    If there is indeed unexpected, and potentially dangerous, DNA introduced during the genetic modification process, that's definitely a factor to consider in regulation. But if it's just something you'll find in any (ahem) garden-variety tomato, then it's merely an interesting tidbit of evolution.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cauliflower_mosaic_virus [wikipedia.org]

      So yes, cauliflower mosaic virus with "a full length, terminally redundant 35S RNA" exists in normal cauliflower, too. Maybe TFA has some answers but TFS fails for not answering your question, which is the first thing any of us should be asking.

    • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:47PM (#42663675)

      1) Yes: Multiple variants of the Cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter (P35S) are used to drive the expression of transgenes in genetically modified plants

      2) No its presence was not unexpected

      3) Its merely a tidbit of speculation:
      "putative translation products of gene VI overlapping P35S" were examined. (These have never been observed in the wild, they simply "Supposed them into being".) Upon Examining them they found "No relevant similarity was identified between the putative peptides and known allergens and toxins".

      Translation, These genes have sequences that might overlap to produce other "translations" (re-combinations).
      Nobody's ever seen it happen. So we had to use a computer.
      We speculated all the possible outcomes from such translations.
      We found nothing harmful.

      No film at 11. Nothing to see here folks.

  • Debunked (Score:5, Informative)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:28PM (#42663447)

    I'll just link to this post [alandove.com] that explains what the news reports misunderstood. It contains quotes from the original authors of the study whose results are misrepresented here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:28PM (#42663449)

    If GMO is so safe, why do the food-industry fight so hard to avoid labelling the products?

    • I'm not goign to take a side on whether or not it's safe. But there's a perfectly reasonable reason to avoid that. Two in fact.

      1: Monitoring which foods are and aren't GMO will cost money that they'd rather not spend.
      2: there's a lot of people who (correctly or incorrectly) fear GMO and thus sales would drop.
    • by aXis100 (690904)

      Because people are stupid, ignorant, misinformed and/or biased??

  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:29PM (#42663457) Homepage Journal

    is knowing I can grow an entire maze with just one seed.

    Is it one of them corn mazes?

  • Know what you eat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:44PM (#42663645)

    I'm not a tinfoil hat type who won't touch GMO because of any silly number of silly new age concerns or paranoid fantasies. But, that doesn't mean people don't have aright to know what they eat. Sure labeling won't solve problems like in TFA, but anything additional that informs consumers is a good thing. And knowing the potential pitfalls of different food choices should be a right. The current inability of shoppers in the US to know what foods are GMO means consumers have no choice. It also leads to suspicion and support to the luddite part of the anti-GMO crowd.

    Labeling is the first step to educating the public on GMOs and what they provides as well as potential impacts worldwide from GMO such as increased yield (with less chemicals) on one hand, and things like genetic diversity concerns and the role of seed/pesticide suppliers and patents on the other. The reason labeling here is so opposed by the industry isn't because of some conspiracy or concern that customers will decide to stop eating their product, or radically change their diet. Americans have known what we eat and its volume are deadly and McDonalds hasn't been shut down.

    Instead the reason behind non-labeling is to keep the status quo, labels on food mean questions, questions lead to competing information and the rise of the conspiracy theorist. Not having to label is just the path of least resistance. But keeping a few loud mouth idiots quiet isn't a good reason to not engage honestly with the public about a very profound change in the way we produce food, and quality to support a growing population.

    • The next obvious step is to label ALL food with the exact sequence of the plant/animal. Educated consumers will then easily be able to determine the safety and even the flavorfulness of their food. Don't like that pesky CMV promoter? Don't eat it. This is a much superior proposal to the worthless "GMO" label, that only tells you if some scientist did something (no telling what). And, you'll find out what all of those changes inserted with "natural" techniques involve -- most of which are far more "interest
    • I want all trace elements in my tinfoil hat to be labeled. Particularly radio actives if the tinfoil was produced and or mined in china. Oh yeah radiation in low doses is not necessarily harmful. Maybe I should buy more of those. Let the biggest corporation convince me with their well funded research! HO!

  • by Hartree (191324) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @08:35PM (#42664149)

    Cauliflower mosaic virus infects various different plants that you eat (yes, even non-gmo "organically grown" ones) including turnips.

    You already get fully formed protein VI in any of them you eat that were infected. So, this isn't something new. We've been eating the protein they're upset about for millenia at least.

    The sequence for protein VI overlaps part of this 35S promoter that's used in some genetics work. It's not normally expressed (changed from DNA into the active protein) and in fact they couldn't find any evidence that it ever was.

    So, they asked the question "what if" this thing we never see happen did by some miracle happen. And when they did, they still couldn't find anything that looked dangerous. But, being scientists, they said they couldn't absolutely, completely, absitively and posolutely rule out any effects on the plants themselves.

    So, there you have it. The thing we never see happen, even if it did happen is the same as something that already happens all the time for the past millenia with no known ill effects.

  • Did a search on the thread on the keyword 'Illuminati'.. was disappointed..

  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @10:21PM (#42664997)
    What wonderful names for researchers in agricultural field: Podevin translates from french into "pot of wine", and du Jardin translates into "of the garden"
  • by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @10:31AM (#42669659)

    Do the same people who stridently assert that labels for GMOs are not required think the same after this?

    This is probably the tip of the iceberg.

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