Biotechnology

Highly Recommended Articles and Websites

 

Articles

A Comparative Evaluation of the Regulation of GM Crops or Products Containing dsRNA and Suggested Improvements to Risk Assessments (2013)

Heinemann et al. Environment International 55:43-55.

The authors identify assumption-based risk assessment as a common and fatal regulatory flaw, citing Vioxx and BSE as case studies. Their assessment of three GMO regulatory regimes (Australia, New Zealand and Brazil) reveals that assumption-based reasoning is also being used to discount the risks of RNAi technology and the likelihood of harmful and unintended consequences if it is used to genetically engineer crops. The authors discuss evidence from the scientific literature showing key assumptions made by these regulators are already known to be wrong. They outline an alternative science-based risk assessment strategy for RNAi technology that takes into account known sequence-specific hazards and the current state of scientific knowledge.

Can the Poor Help GM Crops? Technology, Representation and Cotton in the Makhatini Flats, S. Africa (2006)

Harald Witt et al., Review of African Political Economy 33: 497-513.

The adoption of Genetically Modified (GM) cotton in South Africa’s Makhathini Flats since 1998 is one of the most widely cited GM success stories. Witt, Patel, and Schnurr find instead that the privileging of GM adopters and lack of choice appears to better explain patterns of uptake.

Detection of RNA Variants Transcribed from the Transgene in Roundup Ready™ Soybean (2005)

Andreas Rang et al., European Food Research and Technology 220: 438-443.

The nopaline synthase termination sequence is used in almost every transgene construct in commercial use. Its functionality has never been meaningfully tested but this paper suggests that in genetically engineered herbicide-resistant plants containing RR Soybean event (40-3-2), transgene transcription runs through the termination sequence and into the scrambled DNA beyond.

Golden Lies: The Seed Industry’s Questionable Golden Rice Project (2012)

A foodwatch Report by Christoph Then, testbiotech, Berlin, January 2012

This paper discusses what is missing in the risk assessment of Golden Rice, a genetically engineered rice set to be commercially cultivated in 2013. Golden Rice has been engineered to produce carotenoids, the precursors of pro-vitamin A. Its proponents profess to have lofty humanitarian aims, however the truth may be more prosaic — they have used its development repeatedly as an excuse to demand a general lowering of safety standards and testing requirements for all genetically engineered plants.

Impacts of GE Crops on Pesticide Use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years (2012)

Benbrook (2012) Environmental Sciences Europe 24:24

It is a frequent and crucial claim that herbicide-resistant and pest-resistant GMOs reduce pesticide use, with large benefits for farmers and the environment. Benbrook provides a systematic, independent, and publicly accessible analysis of these various claims. He finds a large increase in both herbicide and pesticide use in the U.S. between 1996–2011 and predicts even greater increases in the future due to (1) stacking of insecticidal and herbicide-resistance genes and (2) continued increases in Bt-resistant insects and herbicide-resistant weeds.

“No Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety” Statement (2013)

Published on ENSSER website and having over 90 original signatories.

This statement directly contradicts those who claim there is a scientific consensus that GMOs are safe. It outlines current scientific understanding and current gaps in GMO safety testing and risk assessment, both of which undermine claims of safety. A press release discussing the statement in available on the ENSSER (European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility) website at: http://www.ensser.org/media/0513/. Also available are the statement: View the statement “No scientific consensus on GMO safety” and the list of original signatories: View the First Signatories. Scientists, academics and physicians can add their names to the statement at: Sign the statement “No consensus on GMO safety”

Rat Feeding Studies with Genetically Modified Maize – a Comparative Evaluation of Applied Methods and Risk Assessment Standards (2013)

Meyer and Hilbeck (2013) Environmental Sciences Europe 25:33

In this important review of GMO risk assessment methods, Meyer and Hilbeck document bias in the evaluation of rat feeding study research carried out by Seralini et al. (2012). In addition, they identify common forms of bias that compromise the integrity of any GMO safety study.

Reasons for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods (2012)

A letter to the AMA Council on Science and Public Health from Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Consumer Reports.

A clear scientific summary of the inadequate testing of GE plants commercialized in the U.S. and the evidence for the allergenicity of certain GMOs.

Redacted Environmental Assessment of AquAdvantage Salmon (2010)

AquAdvantage Salmon is a genetically-engineered Atlantic salmon with a rapid-growth phenotype. This is the Environmental Risk Assessment written by Aqua Bounty Technologies, Inc. and submitted to the Center for Veterinary Medicine, US Food and Drug Administration. Available for public display as of August 25, 2010.

Safety Testing and Regulation of Genetically Engineered Foods (2004)

W. Freese and D. Schubert, Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews 21: 299-324.

A sophisticated and robust assessment of the US regulatory system for the approval of transgenic food crops. Utilizes Bt Corn as a case study.

Science, Law, and Politics in FDA’s Genetically Engineered Foods Policy: Scientific Concerns and Uncertainties (2005)

David Pelletier, Nutrition Reviews 63: 210-23.

This paper discusses the urgent need for nutritionists to define safe, unsafe, desirable and indifferent levels of nutrients and toxins in food plants. This is necessary so that breeders can select and reject appropriate lines and enable regulators to make scientifically informed decisions.

FDA’s regulation of genetically engineered foods: Scientific, legal and political dimensions (2006)

David L. Pelletier, Food Policy 31 (2006) 570–591

Pelletier discusses how the FDA decided on its regulatory policy for GMOs, which remains in place today. “This paper reveals that the FDA responded to political pressure for a permissive regulatory approach by exploiting gaps in scientific knowledge, creatively interpreting existing food law and limiting public involvement in the policy’s development.” Pelletier documents the unscientific basis of GMO regulation, revealing the contrast between government and industry assurances that GMO regulation is science based and stringent and that GMOs are “safe” and the actual situation, which continues to be one of “great uncertainty“, due to the lack of a “major public research effort.”

Science, Law, and Politics in the Food and Drug Administration’s Genetically Engineered Foods Policy: FDA’s 1992 Policy Statement (2005).

David L. Pelletier, Nutrition reviews 63.5 (2005): 171-181.

This paper provides clear evidence that FDA’s policy on GE foods was not dictated by science or public health protection. Rather it was based on a series of legal, economic and political considerations, and the decision to ignore serious gaps in scientific knowledge. The gaps identified by Pelletier are still relevant today, even as new concerns have arisen around the safety of GE foods.

The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science – Part 2 (2009)

Don Lotter, Int. Jrnl. of Soc. of Agr. & Food 16(1): 50-68.

Many scientific and government institutions and individuals promote plant genetic engineering as ‘The Solution’ to everything from global warming to famine. Don Lotter describes watching this position being defended by tactics including defamation of dissenting scientists, manipulation of the information environment and failure of scientists to hold transgenic research and risk assessment to high scientific standards. These tactics have harmed scientific credibility and allowed private interest science to sideline non-proprietary and ecologically-based alternatives. A return of plant science to Mertonian norms of disinterestedness, critical thinking and openness could revitalize both science and agriculture.

Transgenic Expression of Bean α-Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity (2005)

Vanessa Prescott et al., J. Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53: 9023-9030.

Statements about the food safety of GMOs usually explicitly say or imply that no credible danger to human health has ever been identified from a commercial transgenic plant. These statements, however, are only true in the narrowest possible sense. This paper describes harm to mice from a transgenic pea engineered to contain a bean alpha-amylase protein. The paper demonstrated an inflammatory response to the transgenic peas and immunological cross-priming against heterogeneous proteins that was not observed in non-transgenic peas. The authors hypothesized that expression by the peas of a structural variant of the alpha amylase was the cause of this immunological reaction. No mechanism was established for this, however. Following these findings, this insect-resistance project was abandoned.

Underlying Reasons of the Controversy over Adverse Effects of Bt toxins on Lady Beetle and Lacewing Larvae (2012)

Hilbeck A, Meier M, and Trtikova M (2012) Environmental Sciences Europe 24(9)

Hilbeck et al. provide detailed analysis of the science and controversy around the effects of engineered Bt toxins on lady beetle and lacewing larvae. They document the faulty experimental design and unscientific behavior of some GMO proponents. Non-scientific attacks on “results that trigger policy responses one disagrees with” can result in policy that jeopardizes both environmental and human health. The authors call on scientists to demand rigorous scientific protocols, defend legitimate scientific disagreement, and condemn personal attacks.

Who Will Control the Green Economy? (2011)

Published by The ETC Group, November 2011, 60 pages.

Will a “great green technological transformation” bring about a “green economy” to help us save ourselves and our planet? Or will it serve those already controlling today’s “greed economy?”  The ETC Group document the top 10 controlling corporations for each of a dozen economic sectors relevant to the green economy (including seeds, energy, bioinformatics, and food) and warn against the most massive resource grab in 500 years. For a shorter article focusing only on agriculture see “The Big Six: A Profile of Corporate Power in Seeds, Agrochemicals and Biotech” by Hope Shand, in the Seed Saver’s Exchange publication: The Heritage Farm Companion, Summer 2012, pp10-15. Sixteen years after GE crops made their commercial debut in the US, what are the implications for farmers, society, and science? 

Websites

fieldquestions

On his fieldquestions blog, Anthropology and Environmental Studies Professor Glenn Davis Stone provides a sharp-eyed view of the food system, from Bt cotton and Bt Brinjal in India to antibiotic overuse, hunger myths, and why we eat so much meat. Stone uses original sources to offer “The rest of the story on food, farming and biotechnology.”

GeneWatch UK

GeneWatch UK is a not-for-profit group that aims to ensure genetic technologies are developed and used in the public interest, so that they promote human health, protect the environment, and respect human rights and the interests of animals. They cover human genetics, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and biological weapons, and monitor research agendas (including DNA databases and biobanks) and patenting. GeneWatch UK plays an essential role in keeping scientists and the public informed on key genetic issues.

GMO Science: Compilation of Papers Suggesting Harm or Risk

Includes “over 1200 studies, surveys, and analyses that suggest various adverse impacts and potential adverse impacts of genetically engineered (GE/GMO) crops, foods and related pesticides.  This list contains references regarding health impacts, environmental impacts, including impact of non-target organisms (NTOs), resistance of target organisms, genetic drift and drift of pesticides, horizontal gene transfer, unintended effects, as well as references regarding yields, social impact, ethics, economics and regulations.  In most cases, links are provided to the abstracts for the references.

The Nature Institute

The Nature Institute has the goal of helping people to view nature, science, and technology in context. They offer articles, books, and events. Part of their work includes creating a data base of papers documenting the unintended effects of genetic manipulation. This Nature Institute project documents over 80 cases of unintended and unpredictable effects of genetic engineering on organisms and the environment. Visit the Unintended Effects Database. They also provide a valuable introductory article Understanding the Unintended Effects of Genetic Manipulation.