Tag Archives: Allergens

Modified Corn Seeds Sow Doubts

ENVIRONMENT REPORTER

Next spring, farmers in Canada will be able to sow one of the most complicated genetically engineered plants ever designed, a futuristic type of corn containing eight foreign genes.

With so much crammed into one seed, the modified corn will be able to confer multiple benefits, such as resistance to corn borers and rootworms, two caterpillar-like pests that infest the valuable grain crop, as well as withstanding applications of glyphosate, a weed killer better known by its commercial name, Roundup.

But a controversy has arisen over the new seeds, which were approved for use last month by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency: Health Canada hasn’t assessed their safety.

The health agency said in response to questions from The Globe and Mail that it didn’t have to do so, because it is relying on the two companies making the seeds, agriculture giants Monsanto Co. and Dow AgroSciences LLC, to flag any safety concerns. But the companies haven’t tested the seeds either, because they say they aren’t required to.

The companies have checked the safety of each of the eight genes one at a time in individual corn plants, but haven’t done so when they combined the foreign matter together in one seed, says Trish Jordan, a spokesperson for Monsanto Canada Inc.

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Mexican GMO Corn’s First Harvest This Year

Mexico’s first crop of genetically modified maize – due to be harvested later this month – is stoking anxiety about the risks of biotechnology. Chinese environmentalists, concerned about the potential effects of gene-spliced rice in the world’s rice bowl, now look to Mexico as a test-case of how to counter the multinational seed companies’ push to raise so-called Frankenfoods that were created in their laboratories. In Argentina and Brazil, such GMO corn already is sown freely. At China Dialogue, an environmental website, pharmers and their mutant kernels are under scrutiny. Excerpts from ‘Corn Conundrums’:

The decision to allow genetically engineered corn to be sown inside Mexico, the birthplace of this cereal crop, is anathema for many Mexicans. In the central highlands, where wild grass called teosinte was first cross-bred into the staff of life some 9,000 years ago, corn is viewed not only as a staple food but as a sacrament of Mesoamerican civilization. Some indigenous tribes in Mexico still worship Centeotl, the Aztec corn god who protects harvests, and passions run high if any threat to corn is perceived.

Yet laboratory-altered corn, patented by the seed giants Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, is already ripening on 13 hectares in Sinaloa and Sonora states, and the first harvest is expected later this month. An analysis is due in July. Farm groups and environmentalists filed an appeal with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in February, arguing that Mexican officials have been unwilling or unable to prevent the illegal spread of genetically modified crops in their country and that it is too soon to permit biotech plantations before the consequences of genetic contamination – possibly irreversible – are fully understood. They are concerned that Mexican seed dealers have smuggled in thousands of sacks of genetically modified corn with impunity. The commission can refer cases to the Inter-American Human Rights Court if a government does not comply with its recommendations.

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Abuses of Biotechnology posing Threats to Survival

Monday 22 February 2010, by Sailendra Nath Ghosh

The following is the lucidest possible exposition of transgenic genetic engineering. There has been no other exposition anywhere with comparable lucidity of this intricate subject. Since this kind of engineering poses a threat to life’s survival on earth, it has become a crucial political issue. This article was published in Mainstream Annual 2001 (dated December 22, 2001). It is being reproduced here, with minor alternations by the author, in view of the latest controversy surrounding Bt brinjal.

Despite this massive evidence that harmony with Nature gives plentitude and permanence, the practitioners of “nature-conquering science” are now embarking on an yet more dangerous course—namely, “transgenic genetic engineering”. Bioscience—whose purpose was to understand the interlinkages between and among plant and animal species and to find thereform the clues to least expensive agri- and other cultures and cures for diseases—has long been hijacked by commercial interests to enthrone biotechnology, in which the emphasis is on mass production rather than production by the masses. Hybridisation, tissue culture, even cloning to a limited extent of endangered species to repair the damage of near-extinction already done to bioresources, was permissible. But what is now being attempted in the wake of the failure of the “Green Revolution” is a hydra-headed disaster, a biological holocaust, more insidious than nuclear holocaust because it is silent and, in the initial stages, imperceptible.

The “bright” idea is to transfer genes to unrelated species that never interbreed in nature, such as inserting toad genes into potatoes or genes of some bacteria into crop plants. Scientists have taken the gene in a firefly that emits light and inserted it into the genetic code of tobacco plant. Anti-freeze gene from the “flounder fish” has been inserted into the genetic code of tomato plant to protect the plant from cold spells. Insecticide producing gene from bacteria and viruses are being inserted into plants. Attempts are being made to create novel life forms that have not existed before.

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