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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 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?

  • 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 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 fredgiblet (1063752) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:40PM (#42663601)
    Actually there's plenty of food in the world. The poblem is that large parts of it can't pay enough for us to bother getting it to them.
  • 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.

  • 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 ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @08:11PM (#42663951) Homepage

    WTF are you about? GM crops are not going to help 'feed the world'. Places that are having food shortages suffer from poor soil, lack of water, poor infrastructure and little money. GM crops don't answer any of those issues.

    Kool Aid, especially in large quantities, is harmful to higher cognitive functions.

  • 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.

  • This would be useful advice for the scientists who control the delivery of GMO seed to farmers and agribusinessmen.

    Oh wait... the scientists don't do that. It is the bean counters and paper shufflers who make those contracts....

    GMO needs to be tightly regulated because there are too many levels where decisions are made by persons who don't have a fucking clue what their own long term best interests are. Let alone give a damn about what is best for anyone else.

  • 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 raftpeople (844215) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @09:39PM (#42664719)
    Not so fast my friend. Are you aware that there has been a consistent and dedicated effort by scientists to breed/evolve rice for the last 50 years to increase production and the number of areas it can grow? And that without this effort rice production would not have kept up with worldwide demand?

    GM crops can certainly play a part in continuing to keep up with demand.
  • by Toonol (1057698) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @09:48PM (#42664791)
    He's just overly enthusiastic. The anti-GMO environmentalists don't want those people to starve; they just care more about banning GMO than saving those people.
  • by Sentrion (964745) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @10:49PM (#42665257)

    That's so true! It's just like the Cane Toad in Australia. It has been very effective at controlling pest insects on sugar cane fields ever since it was introduced in 1935, but the nay sayers are still convinced that the toads are an invasive species that are leading to severe breakdowns in Australian ecology. The nay sayers add to the hype by claiming that the cane toads are a nuissance to areas of human habitation, or even suggesting that there are risk of children or pets being poisoned from contact with toads.

    They complain about the imagined threat posed by innocent little toads, but will they admit that they would be willing to go back 80 years and raise cane without the toads? Who could possibly imagine such a world so primitive as to even attempt to raise cane without cane toads? It is totally preposterous! If they weren't growing cane, what else could they have possibly grown in Queensland?

    And a warning to those of us who support GMO with our hearts, souls, and wallets: They naysayers actually succeeded in getting the Australian government to ban importation of cane toads just after the initial release until a study could be completed to show that they were harmless. Fortunately for the industry, and the economy of Queensland, the ban was lifted in 1936. The danger posed by fearmongers who do not understand modern science and technology should not be under estimated. Just think - if the naysayers had their way, maybe there wouldn't even be ANY cane toads in Queensland today.

  • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @10:59PM (#42665343)

    WTF are you about? GM crops are not going to help 'feed the world'. Places that are having food shortages suffer from poor soil, lack of water, poor infrastructure and little money. GM crops don't answer any of those issues.

    Seems to me that engineering a plant that needs minimal care and performs well under harsh conditions would be a perfectly sensible way to proceed. It is, after all, a strategy that the geek has applauded under other circumstances --- deep space exploration, the colonization of Mars and so on.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @11:20PM (#42665513)

    Actually, I think this is something we can lay at the feet of American and European farm subsidies. African farmers can't compete with subsidised staples from the US and Europe, so they have to instead focus on cash crops. If the US and France were to give up on farm subsidies, African farmers could actually grow food crops locally.

  • by Sique (173459) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @02:08AM (#42666549) Homepage
    You know, irony is not easily understood online.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @02:52AM (#42666771)

    Not a virologist, but your response doesn't sound kosher. I don't see anywhere in your references, or any scientific citation linked by anyone at this site, anything at all to suggest that Gene VI insertion was at all Intentional.
      I somehow doubt that it is...but, of course, that would make transgenic technology far less precise than biotechnologist would love people to believe--
      which it is not.

    Anyone making an analogy that we have been ingesting CaMV with veggies all along, so it must be safe--is drinking Cool Aid, We certainly weren't ingesting Gene VI in a transgenic crop carrying antibiotic resistance markers, EPSPS's, Bt, and random superfluous other pieces of DNA

      Gene VI isn't just a simple protein; it has multiple functions. Since Gene VI alters RNA silencing and transactivates (http://www.pnas.org/content/86/23/9203.full.pdf) the products of each individual transgenic crop are unpredictable and unknown--could be mutant proteins, toxins, allergens or be harmless. No one knows. And anyone who tells you that they can rule out a food allergy by doing a bioinformatics search for protein homology, has never once worked with a food allergy patient, because the inconvenient truth is that the gold standard of food allergy diagnosis is a placebo controlled blinded food trial... in real life. There are no in vitro tests or homology tests that are precise enough to predict food allergy..... which is why each transgenic crop needs to be uniquely labeled with some sort of a code enabling tracing it to its specific genetic modification.

  • by Giftmacher (2621375) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @03:54AM (#42667017)

    Quite, though I'm not convinced by the first link's suggestion that this could be a human health issue. As a scientist I've got to say it's not a great article, there's a rather obvious attempt to shoe horn a health scare into the analysis, to say nothing of smearing a regulatory body. (The latter in spite of a full public disclosure.)

    As for the substance of the science. Yes, gene VI is toxic to plants but it's toxic when expressed inside a cell, so while it may be a danger to an infected plant it's got serious hurdles to leap before it gets expressed in a mammalian cell. I'd also note that while ribosomes are highly conserved, plant and mammalian ribosomes are not identical, so even if the protein was expressed in a human cell it's by no means certain to be functional. Moreover, it appears this isn't even the full length Gene VI, so it would by no means be functional even in plants.

    At most there's a risk to the GM crop in the form of a reduced viral resistance, that's a threat to Monsanto's bottom line more than anything else.

    On the whole I'm not impressed with the editorial commentary by Latham and Wilson, there's more than a whiff of axe grinding and self promotion. "Independent science news is clearly a misnomer". I hope they've written this letter to the journal in question, rather than jeering from the sidelines.

  • 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.

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