Home » Biotechnology »Commentaries »Health » Currently Reading:

Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in Commercial GMO Crops

January 21, 2013 Biotechnology, Commentaries, Health 149 Comments

by Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

How should a regulatory agency announce they have discovered something potentially very important about the safety of products they have been approving for over twenty years?

In the course of analysis to identify potential allergens in GMO crops, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has belatedly discovered that the most common genetic regulatory sequence in commercial GMOs also encodes a significant fragment of a viral gene (Podevin and du Jardin 2012). This finding has serious ramifications for crop biotechnology and its regulation, but possibly even greater ones for consumers and farmers. This is because there are clear indications that this viral gene (called Gene VI) might not be safe for human consumption. It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance.

Cauliflower Mosaic Virus

Cauliflower Mosaic Virus

What Podevin and du Jardin discovered is that of the 86 different transgenic events (unique insertions of foreign DNA) commercialized to-date in the United States 54 contain portions of Gene VI within them. They include any with a widely used gene regulatory sequence called the CaMV 35S promoter (from the cauliflower mosaic virus; CaMV). Among the affected transgenic events are some of the most widely grown GMOs, including Roundup Ready soybeans (40-3-2) and MON810 maize. They include the controversial NK603 maize recently reported as causing tumors in rats (Seralini et al. 2012).

The researchers themselves concluded that the presence of segments of Gene VI “might result in unintended phenotypic changes”. They reached this conclusion because similar fragments of Gene VI have already been shown to be active on their own (e.g. De Tapia et al. 1993). In other words, the EFSA researchers were unable to rule out a hazard to public health or the environment.

In general, viral genes expressed in plants raise both agronomic and human health concerns (reviewed in Latham and Wilson 2008). This is because many viral genes function to disable their host in order to facilitate pathogen invasion. Often, this is achieved by incapacitating specific anti-pathogen defenses. Incorporating such genes could clearly lead to undesirable and unexpected outcomes in agriculture. Furthermore, viruses that infect plants are often not that different from viruses that infect humans. For example, sometimes the genes of human and plant viruses are interchangeable, while on other occasions inserting plant viral fragments as transgenes has caused the genetically altered plant to become susceptible to an animal virus (Dasgupta et al. 2001). Thus, in various ways, inserting viral genes accidentally into crop plants and the food supply confers a significant potential for harm.

The Choices for Regulators
The original discovery by Podevin and du Jardin (at EFSA) of Gene VI in commercial GMO crops must have presented regulators with sharply divergent procedural alternatives. They could 1) recall all CaMV Gene VI-containing crops (in Europe that would mean revoking importation and planting approvals) or, 2) undertake a retrospective risk assessment of the CaMV promoter and its Gene VI sequences and hope to give it a clean bill of health.

It is easy to see the attraction for EFSA of option two. Recall would be a massive political and financial decision and would also be a huge embarrassment to the regulators themselves. It would leave very few GMO crops on the market and might even mean the end of crop biotechnology.

Regulators, in principle at least, also have a third option to gauge the seriousness of any potential GMO hazard. GMO monitoring, which is required by EU regulations, ought to allow them to find out if deaths, illnesses, or crop failures have been reported by farmers or health officials and can be correlated with the Gene VI sequence. Unfortunately, this particular avenue of enquiry is a scientific dead end. Not one country has carried through on promises to officially and scientifically monitor any hazardous consequences of GMOs (1).

Unsurprisingly, EFSA chose option two. However, their investigation resulted only in the vague and unreassuring conclusion that Gene VI “might result in unintended phenotypic changes” (Podevin and du Jardin 2012). This means literally, that changes of an unknown number, nature, or magnitude may (or may not) occur. It falls well short of the solid scientific reassurance of public safety needed to explain why EFSA has not ordered a recall.

Can the presence of a fragment of virus DNA really be that significant? Below is an independent analysis of Gene VI and its known properties and their safety implications. This analysis clearly illustrates the regulators’ dilemma.

The Many Functions of Gene VI
Gene VI, like most plant viral genes, produces a protein that is multifunctional. It has four (so far) known roles in the viral infection cycle. The first is to participate in the assembly of virus particles. There is no current data to suggest this function has any implications for biosafety. The second known function is to suppress anti-pathogen defenses by inhibiting a general cellular system called RNA silencing (Haas et al. 2008). Thirdly, Gene VI has the highly unusual function of transactivating (described below) the long RNA (the 35S RNA) produced by CaMV (Park et al. 2001). Fourthly, unconnected to these other mechanisms, Gene VI has very recently been shown to make plants highly susceptible to a bacterial pathogen (Love et al. 2012). Gene VI does this by interfering with a common anti-pathogen defense mechanism possessed by plants. These latter three functions of Gene VI (and their risk implications) are explained further below:

1) Gene VI Is an Inhibitor of RNA Silencing
RNA silencing is a mechanism for the control of gene expression at the level of RNA abundance (Bartel 2004). It is also an important antiviral defense mechanism in both plants and animals, and therefore most viruses have evolved genes (like Gene VI) that disable it (Dunoyer and Voinnet 2006).

Cauliflower mosaic virus genome

Gene VI (upper left) precedes the start of the 35S RNA

This attribute of Gene VI raises two obvious biosafety concerns: 1) Gene VI will lead to aberrant gene expression in GMO crop plants, with unknown consequences and, 2) Gene VI will interfere with the ability of plants to defend themselves against viral pathogens. There are numerous experiments showing that, in general, viral proteins that disable gene silencing enhance infection by a wide spectrum of viruses (Latham and Wilson 2008).

2) Gene VI Is a Unique Transactivator of Gene Expression
Multicellular organisms make proteins by a mechanism in which only one protein is produced by each passage of a ribosome along a messenger RNA (mRNA). Once that protein is completed the ribosome dissociates from the mRNA. However, in a CaMV-infected plant cell, or as a transgene, Gene VI intervenes in this process and directs the ribosome to get back on an mRNA (reinitiate) and produce the next protein in line on the mRNA, if there is one. This property of Gene VI enables Cauliflower Mosaic Virus to produce multiple proteins from a single long RNA (the 35S RNA). Importantly, this function of Gene VI (which is called transactivation) is not limited to the 35S RNA. Gene VI seems able to transactivate any cellular mRNA (Futterer and Hohn 1991; Ryabova et al. 2002). There are likely to be thousands of mRNA molecules having a short or long protein coding sequence following the primary one. These secondary coding sequences could be expressed in cells where Gene VI is expressed. The result will presumably be production of numerous random proteins within cells. The biosafety implications of this are difficult to assess. These proteins could be allergens, plant or human toxins, or they could be harmless. Moreover, the answer will differ for each commercial crop species into which Gene VI has been inserted.

3) Gene VI Interferes with Host Defenses
A very recent finding, not known by Podevin and du Jardin, is that Gene VI has a second mechanism by which it interferes with plant anti-pathogen defenses (Love et al. 2012). It is too early to be sure about the mechanistic details, but the result is to make plants carrying Gene VI more susceptible to certain pathogens, and less susceptible to others. Obviously, this could impact farmers, however the discovery of an entirely new function for gene VI while EFSA’s paper was in press, also makes clear that a full appraisal of all the likely effects of Gene VI is not currently achievable.

Is There a Direct Human Toxicity Issue?
When Gene VI is intentionally expressed in transgenic plants, it causes them to become chlorotic (yellow), to have growth deformities, and to have reduced fertility in a dose-dependent manner (Ziljstra et al 1996). Plants expressing Gene VI also show gene expression abnormalities. These results indicate that, not unexpectedly given its known functions, the protein produced by Gene VI is functioning as a toxin and is harmful to plants (Takahashi et al 1989). Since the known targets of Gene VI activity (ribosomes and gene silencing) are also found in human cells, a reasonable concern is that the protein produced by Gene VI might be a human toxin. This is a question that can only be answered by future experiments.

Is Gene VI Protein Produced in GMO Crops?
Given that expression of Gene VI is likely to cause harm, a crucial issue is whether the actual inserted transgene sequences found in commercial GMO crops will produce any functional protein from the fragment of Gene VI present within the CaMV sequence.

There are two aspects to this question. One is the length of Gene VI accidentally introduced by developers. This appears to vary but most of the 54 approved transgenes contain the same 528 base pairs of the CaMV 35S promoter sequence. This corresponds to approximately the final third of Gene VI. Deleted fragments of Gene VI are active when expressed in plant cells and functions of Gene VI are believed to reside in this final third. Therefore, there is clear potential for unintended effects if this fragment is expressed (e.g. De Tapia et al. 1993; Ryabova et al. 2002; Kobayashi and Hohn 2003).

The second aspect of this question is what quantity of Gene VI could be produced in GMO crops? Once again, this can ultimately only be resolved by direct quantitative experiments. Nevertheless, we can theorize that the amount of Gene VI produced will be specific to each independent insertion event. This is because significant Gene VI expression probably would require specific sequences (such as the presence of a gene promoter and an ATG [a protein start codon]) to precede it and so is likely to be heavily dependent on variables such as the details of the inserted transgenic DNA and where in the plant genome the transgene inserted.

Commercial transgenic crop varieties can also contain superfluous copies of the transgene, including those that are incomplete or rearranged (Wilson et al 2006). These could be important additional sources of Gene VI protein. The decision of regulators to allow such multiple and complex insertion events was always highly questionable, but the realization that the CaMV 35S promoter contains Gene VI sequences provides yet another reason to believe that complex insertion events increase the likelihood of a biosafety problem.

Even direct quantitative measurements of Gene VI protein in individual crop authorizations would not fully resolve the scientific questions, however. No-one knows, for example, what quantity, location or timing of protein production would be of significance for risk assessment, and so answers necessary to perform science-based risk assessment are unlikely to emerge soon.

Big Lessons for Biotechnology
It is perhaps the most basic assumption in all of risk assessment that the developer of a new product provides regulators with accurate information about what is being assessed. Perhaps the next most basic assumption is that regulators independently verify this information.  We now know, however, that for over twenty years neither of those simple expectations have been met. Major public universities, biotech multinationals, and government regulators everywhere, seemingly did not appreciate the relatively simple possibility that the DNA constructs they were responsible for encoded a viral gene.

This lapse occurred despite the fact that Gene VI was not truly hidden; the relevant information on the existence of Gene VI has been freely available in the scientific literature since well before the first biotech approval (Franck et al 1980). We ourselves have offered specific warnings that viral sequences could contain unsuspected genes (Latham and Wilson 2008). The inability of risk assessment processes to incorporate longstanding and repeated scientific findings is every bit as worrysome as the failure to intellectually anticipate the possibility of overlapping genes when manipulating viral sequences.

This sense of a generic failure is reinforced by the fact that this is not an isolated event. There exist other examples of commercially approved viral sequences having overlapping genes that were never subjected to risk assessment. These include numerous commercial GMOs containing promoter regions of the closely related virus figwort mosaic virus (FMV) which were not considered by Podevin and du Jardin. Inspection of commercial sequence data shows that the commonly used FMV promoter overlaps its own Gene VI (Richins et al 1987). A third example is the virus-resistant potato NewLeaf Plus (RBMT-22-82). This transgene contains approximately 90% of the P0 gene of potato leaf roll virus. The known function of this gene, whose existence was discovered only after US approval, is to inhibit the anti-pathogen defenses of its host (Pfeffer et al 2002). Fortunately, this potato variety was never actively marketed.

A further key point relates to the biotech industry and their campaign to secure public approval and a permissive regulatory environment. This has led them to repeatedly claim, firstly, that GMO technology is precise and predictable; and secondly, that their own competence and self-interest would prevent them from ever bringing potentially harmful products to the market; and thirdly, to assert that only well studied and fully understood transgenes are commercialized. It is hard to imagine a finding more damaging to these claims than the revelations surrounding Gene VI.

Biotechnology, it is often forgotten, is not just a technology. It is an experiment in the proposition that human institutions can perform adequate risk assessments on novel living organisms. Rather than treat that question as primarily a daunting scientific one, we should for now consider that the primary obstacle will be overcoming the much more mundane trap of human complacency and incompetence. We are not there yet, and therefore this incident will serve to reinforce the demands for GMO labeling in places where it is absent.

What Regulators Should Do Now
This summary of the scientific risk issues shows that a segment of a poorly characterized viral gene never subjected to any risk assessment (until now) was allowed onto the market. This gene is currently present in commercial crops and growing on a large scale. It is also widespread in the food supply.

Even now that EFSA’s own researchers have belatedly considered the risk issues, no one can say whether the public has been harmed, though harm appears a clear scientific possibility. Considered from the perspective of professional and scientific risk assessment, this situation represents a complete and catastrophic system failure.

But the saga of Gene VI is not yet over. There is no certainty that further scientific analysis will resolve the remaining uncertainties, or provide reassurance. Future research may in fact increase the level of concern or uncertainty, and this is a possibility that regulators should weigh heavily in their deliberations.

To return to the original choices before EFSA, these were either to recall all CaMV 35S promoter-containing GMOs, or to perform a retrospective risk assessment. This retrospective risk assessment has now been carried out and the data clearly indicate a potential for significant harm. The only course of action consistent with protecting the public and respecting the science is for EFSA, and other jurisdictions, to order a total recall. This recall should also include GMOs containing the FMV promoter and its own overlapping Gene VI.

Footnotes
1)  EFSA regulators might now be regretting their failure to implement meaningful GMO monitoring. It would be a good question for European politicians to ask EFSA and for the board of EFSA to ask the GMO panel, whose job it is to implement monitoring.

References
Bartel P (2004)  MicroRNAs: Genomics, Biogenesis, Mechanism, and Function. Cell: 116, 281-297.

Dasgupta R , Garcia BH,  Goodman RM (2001) Systemic spread of an RNA insect virus in plants expressing plant viral movement protein genes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 98: 4910-4915.

De Tapia M, Himmelbach A, and Hohn T (1993) Molecular dissection of the cauliflower mosaic virus translation transactivator. EMBO J 12: 3305-14.

Dunoyer P, and  O Voinnet (2006) The complex interplay between plant viruses and host RNA-silencing pathways.  Curr Opinion in Plant Biology 8: 415–423.

Franck A, H Guilley, G Jonard, K Richards and L Hirth (1980) Nucleotide sequence of cauliflower mosaic virus DNA. Cell 2: 285-294.
Futterer J, and T Hohn (1991) Translation of a polycistronic mRNA in presence of the cauliflower mosaic virus transactivator protein. EMBO J. 10: 3887-3896.

Haas G, Azevedo J, Moissiard G, Geldreich A, Himber C, Bureau M, et al. (2008) Nuclear import of CaMV P6 is required for infection and suppression of the RNA silencing factor DRB4. EMBO J 27: 2102-12.

Kobayashi K, and T Hohn (2003) Dissection of Cauliflower Mosaic Virus Transactivator/Viroplasmin Reveals Distinct Essential Functions in Basic Virus Replication. J. Virol. 77: 8577–8583.

Latham JR, and AK Wilson (2008) Transcomplementation and Synergism in Plants: Implications for Viral Transgenes? Molecular Plant Pathology 9: 85-103.

Park H-S, Himmelbach A, Browning KS, Hohn T, and Ryabova LA (2001). A plant viral ‘‘reinitiation’’ factor interacts with the host translational machinery. Cell 106: 723–733.

Pfeffer S, P Dunoyer, F Heim, KE Richards, G Jonard, V Ziegler-Graff (2002) P0 of Beet Western Yellows Virus Is a Suppressor of Posttranscriptional Gene Silencing. J. Virol. 76: 6815–6824.

Podevin N and  du Jardin P (2012) Possible consequences of the overlap between the CaMV 35S promoter regions in plant transformation vectors used and the viral gene VI in transgenic plants. GM Crops and Food 3: 1-5.

Love AJ , C Geri, J Laird, C Carr, BW Yun, GJ Loake et al (2012) Cauliflower mosaic virus Protein P6 Inhibits Signaling Responses to Salicylic Acid and Regulates Innate Immunity. PLoS One. 7(10): e47535.

Richins R, H Scholthof, RJ Shepherd (1987) Sequence of figwort mosaic virus DNA (caulimovirus group). NAR 15: 8451-8466.

Ryabova LA , Pooggin, MH and Hohn, T (2002) Viral strategies of translation initiation: Ribosomal shunt and reinitiation. Progress in Nucleic Acid Research and Molecular Biology 72: 1-39.

Séralini, G-E., E. Clair, R. Mesnage, S. Gress, N. Defarge, M. Malatesta, D. Hennequin, J. Spiroux de Vendômois. 2012. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food Chem. Toxicol.

Takahashi H, K Shimamoto, Y Ehara (1989) Cauliflower mosaic virus gene VI causes growth suppression, development of necrotic spots and expression of defence-related genes in transgenic tobacco plants. Molecular and General Genetics 216:188-194.

Wilson AK, JR Latham and RA Steinbrecher (2006) Transformation-induced mutations in transgenic plants: Analysis and biosafety implications. Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews 23: 209-234.

Zijlstra C, Schärer-Hernández N, Gal S, Hohn T. Arabidopsis thaliana expressing the cauliflower mosaic virus ORF VI transgene has a late flowering phenotype. Virus Genes 1996; 13:5-17.

Currently there are "149 comments" on this Article:

  1. Madeleine Love says:

    This is something new. I’ve gone into the Monsanto application material they gave to Food Standards Australia New Zealand for their GM canola crop, just because I know this set of material best. GM canola has two figwort mosaic virus-related promoters. When describing their P-CMoVb promoter, they referenced Gowda et al (1989), Richins et al (1987), Sanger et al (1990). I’ve looked at Richins. It’s absolutely clear that the FMV sequences overlap. If they took material upstream of the promoter they must know they were using sequences from a viral gene. How much of Gene VI would be included? Monsanto didn’t seem to report the size of these promoters in the original material. They sent additional material in 2002, saying each promoter was 580 bp long. But then I read an EFSA report “Application for renewal of the authorisation for continued marketing of existing food additives, feed materials and feed additives produced from GT73 oilseed rape…” that listed one of the promoters at 564bp and 680bp. Very close examination of the plant transformation plasmid drawings in the Monsanto material does suggest these different lengths. Different lengths usually mean something’s broken in the process. Looking at the earlier shuttle drawings indicates promoters of about 1100bp, much like Sanger described. More to find out here.

    • Madeleine Love says:

      I was wondering why Figwort Mosaic Virus Gene VI sequence (M59930) on pubmed Nucleotide was so different to the GeneVI designation in the Richins genome (NC_003554) – have since seen studies on the adaptation of Gene VI to its host. Wondering if or how much the actual promoter sequence would mutate in plant.

      • Gavin Venn says:

        Hi Madeline,

        The mutation of the fragment of gene VI, and any resulting new proteins in the novel transgenic plant: we don’t know what effects they have because we’re not looking for them?

        Please can you also explain why these effects may be different to the effects of the full gene in broccoli for example?

        Thanks.

        • Madeleine Love says:

          Second question first…

          Individuals or organisations arguing against concerns related to this discovery may say or write statements to the effect that humans have been consuming the cauliflower mosaic virus in food over some time, giving an example of a cruciferous crop such as broccoli, saying there hasn’t been a measured ill-effect in relation to the virus. They may put a halo on the viral material by saying it comes from nature and describing the broccoli as ‘heritage organic’. I haven’t read into the area of health effects on humans of the virus in natural state, but for the sake of argument I’ll assume this claim is true, noting that an ill-effect may yet to be identified.

          I’m a science graduate with some post grad subjects in actuarial science. I’ve been reading into the science and regulation of the GM food and crops issue for about five years. Even with what I understand so far, analogies drawn between the CaMV products in an infected heritage organic broccoli and whatever construct finally ends up in a GM plant are demonstrably false. I see them as red herrings.

          The first point that needs clarification is your phrase “the full gene” – this phrase implicitly carries an assumption that the CaMV-related genetic material in, for example, a GM sweet corn is the same as in CaMV infected heritage broccoli, except for being shorter.

          Firstly there tend to be many strains of these viruses with differing genetic material.

          Second, the genetic material actually used in the plant may not be material that was sourced from the halo’d nature. The orginal genetic material may be sourced from viruses reared or discovered on hosts in breeding laboratories, as was the case for the code for the Cry1Ab-related proteins in many GM insecticidal crops. Maybe some people would call that ‘sourced from nature’ – it doesn’t the same halo effect though.

          Third, often the genetic material from the orginal source won’t work well in the host plant cells. In the case of Cry1Ab gene, typically 30% of the codons in the genes were changed. Also some sequences were deliberately changed to alter amino acids in the bacterial proteins, simply to make the proteins functional in plants. I don’t know what has happened to the coding of the ‘pure promoter’ material of CaMV or FMV or the particular virus and strains’ respective Gene VI’s because, as yet, I haven’t found any sequences in patents, in Food Regulatory reports, GM company applications (seemingly put in confidential appendices that I wasn’t given) or in the ncbi database. I have to keep looking.

          Fourth, in the very simplest example, the genetic material in the crops in respect of Gene VI is curtate as discussed above and as you mentioned. So only part of the protein or peptides may be transcribed if there happens to be an open reading frame. Unless nature surreptitiously cut a protein short we haven’t eaten these before – they are novel products. They may attract different post-translational modifications, fold differently, clump, expose active epitopes otherwise not exposed – it shouldn’t be assumed that this curtate protein or peptides necessarily have all the same properties than those from a full Virus of this type in the natural environment, nor should it be assumed that they are inactive as a result of being curtate. There are examples of proteins becoming more virulent when curtate.

          Fifth, the GM developers are working on more accuracy but I think it’s still true that the insertion of these genetic constructs are random – they certainly have been in the case of all the GM crops I have read into. The authors of the study under discussion noted 54 GM crops using this sort of genetic material. Depending on where the constructs landed in the crop and the Open Reading Frames that happened to occur, any range of novel proteins could be generated from the material that in many cases may also have lost or gained sequences or undergone rearrangement in the recombination event.

          Sixth, a lot of promoters are being described as “chimeric” (man made) by the developers and Food Regulators as the GM developers progressively learn more about what constructs make a vibrant promoter in a particular plant for a particular purpose. The promoter constructs may carry useful bits from a CaMV or FMV but they are likely to be attached to promoters and sequences from other sources. Nobody has eaten this genetic material before and without further information and considering all of the above I couldn’t hazard a guess at what might be generated from them if an open reading frame at a random insertion point in the plant.

          I see analogies that are drawn between the CaMV products in an infected heritage organic broccoli and whatever construct finally ends up in a GM plant as patently false.

          Very busy – must add information to the other part later. Ask for references, examples, more info as required.

          • Gavin Venn says:

            Hi Madeline,

            “Unless nature surreptitiously cut a protein short we haven’t eaten these before – they are novel products. They may attract different post-translational modifications, fold differently, clump, expose active epitopes otherwise not exposed”

            The flow chart provided by Podevin & Jardin, and the conclusions they reach bases resulting phenotypes on known effects of the full virus VI. This would suggest that on this subject, the regulators and possibly developers are only looking for what they expect to see. Novel phenotypes may well have been missed.

  2. Wow. Thank you for this article. I suppose the choice to make the public into guinea pigs has not yet been dissuaded, but with good scientists like this in the world we can have hope.

  3. Valerie says:

    Great article, nothing in it surprises me. However, I’m dismayed by how few comments there are regarding this. Just goes to show, mainstream America just doesn’t get it quite yet. I still get blank stares when I mention GMO’s in casual conversation. When you come to the realization that NO industry will willfully police it’s actions when big $$ are at stake. And that that same industry and your government are working hand in hand in duplicitous collusion. And that even scientists you thought were above it all, have been bought by big money. When you finally understand it all, you realize that you can only trust your instincts. As time goes on, I get further and further away from the Food Industrial Complex, and am healthier for it.

    • Mary E. says:

      Valerie, I understand when you say you receive blank stares when mentioning GMO’s. I am giving a presentation on Plant Based Eating and am going to mention GMO’s. Do you have any words of wisdom as far as definition and ways to avoid GMO’s in layman’s terms? I have an idea of how to present it, but I always welcome other ways to approach the subject.

  4. tielman says:

    I’m with Valerie on this one. When upon hearing about the wonders of the New Revolution about to take place in Wheat farming in Canada many years ago my first instinct was to go “hold on here” and who says? Then non participating farmers were having their Rapeseed fields contaminated by the bullies who were selling the new science to the greedy! That caused me to worry even more about the brilliance of this new fangled industrial monopoly that was advocating the use of their products. Now it appears I was correct in my original assumption. I’m an old time organic farm practioner and seem to be vindicated by my trust in what I call sticking to what my grandparents advocated as the best policy in farming the way nature intended us to farm. By looking after the environment we were working in. Yes?

    • Misha says:

      Thank you for being an honest organic farmer. I and many others have a lot of respect for farmers like yourself for taking care of the land for this and future generations. Please keep up your good work!

    • Belenda Brown says:

      Thank you for being an organic farmer. I have an a**hole of a nay-sayer (bio-science dweeb) that thinks this GMO stuff is all bullcrap. He’s actually taunting me to “prove” to him that GMO foods are killing us. Anyone have some good studies I can send this creep? I refuse to back down just because I’m not a scientific bio-tech researcher with a plethora of “double-blind studies” to back this up. anyone wanna help me out here????

      LUV LUV LUV organic farmers! Thank you

  5. Karen Chun says:

    The Mosaic virus is in most GMOs ON PURPOSE – it is the mechanism which stimulates the plant to reproduce the foreign DNA. Without it, you could splice genes all you want but they wouldn’t reproduce.

    • Karen Chun says:

      I should add that the “promoter” gene that is attached to GMO DNA, not only stimulates the inserted genes to “express” or turn on and copy themselves — but it also “promotes” other virus DNA. There’s a lot of ancient (and not active) virus material in our DNA. Some of it is very bad when it gets turned on – like that which causes leukemia..

      For those with some molecular biology background, understanding the process by which GMOs are created, makes one FAR more concerned than just reading about the effects! Logically, what the GMO guys are doing is fraught with danger to not only our health but that of the plants.

      • jrlatham says:

        Hi Karen
        I hope the article is clear that the viral promoter is there on purpose but Gene VI is not. Re your point about the methods used to make GMOs, our paper (Wilson et al. 2006) and another one that is shorter and more concise (The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation) are the best resources we know of to find out the gruesome details of the different methods.

        • Ari says:

          No, Gene VI encodes the P6 protein – a nuclear shuttle protein, and is part of the viral infection cycle: http://www.plantcell.org/content/17/3/927.abstract

          Maybe if the PUBLIC funded science instead of only the private sector, we could perform more thorough research into these endeavors prior to public release for consumption. Maybe instead of demonizing the science itself and writing alarmist articles, one could release factual evidence that doesn’t use buzz words only meant to frighten the general public and immediately turn into Facebook memes propagated by the fearfully ignorant.

          Also, I read the abstract of this article, but since I’m a broke grad student (btw, actually have a degree in molecular biology, would like to see credentials of these authors if possible) I can’t afford to pay $29 to read it ahead of publication. Maybe there is something in this article that warrants a more alarmist standpoint, but from what I have read (and this includes previous literature that was likely cited in this particular article) this is actually A. a good thing, the evaluation of possible complications due to this common process and B. not something to panic over.

          Lest we forget that a good portion of GM is a process nearly identical to the practice of crop modification that has been carried out by humanity for THOUSANDS of years – just in a more precise way. That is not the case for all, but it is pertinent to say that not all GMOs can be lumped into one ‘evil’ category. Straight up. Don’t believe the hype.

          • jrlatham says:

            Ari
            I am sorry you cannot access the paper easily/cheaply but the journal has an open access option which EFSA chose not to use. Consequently, you cannot see the research you (if you are a European tax payer) paid for. Unfortunately this means that we cannot make this available to you without breaching copyright. It is a deeply sad thing that this situation persists over much of science, the only people who are able easily to change this are scientists themselves and they have chosen not to do so.
            Yes, Gene VI makes protein P6, but rather than introduce another term you will see we called it the protein produced by Gene VI, etc.
            It is true GMO crops also go through steps of conventional breeding (unless they are papaya or trees in which they may not) but GMO breeding (tissue culture, shooting with particles, infecting with microbes, insereting foreign genes, etc) has next to nothing in common with what we have been doing for thousands of years.
            The people in this story who are the fearfully ignorant are not the public who want labeling so they can avoid GMOs but the regulators who fear industry and for their jobs and wish to remain ignorant of the risks.

          • Madeleine Love says:

            Ari, the academic backgrounds of the authors of this commentary are here http://www.bioscienceresource.org/about-us/our-staff/

          • Goku says:

            Hey Ari i go to cal. im not a bio major and i get free access to this kind of stuff and would like to hear your take on their findings so, heres the article free of charge :)

            https://www.dropbox.com/s/yiqmcwhs3onv7rc/Plant%20Cell-2005-Haas-927-43.pdf

  6. Angela says:

    To get the word out, I recently posted a picture on FB of bread that I made with organic, non-GMO ingredients. At least three of my friends that buy all organic and make most of their own dishes said that they thought organic and non-GMO were the same thing. They all said they were ready to do the research. Those were the only people that spoke up. I think that is a big misconception about organic. I get a lot of my recipes from different blogs. Most of the large blogs that claim to be cooking healthy do not mention non-GMO, only organic. I could be wrong, but I doubt that most scientist use social media. There seems to be a need for tapping into that market with education in layman’s terms.

    • Hazel says:

      Organic is supposed to be non-GMO (I forget the percentage, but the USDA Organic label does allow for a tiny % of GMOs in there, to cover themselves from contamination….since the entire concept of “co-existence” is a farce, because pollen cannot be contained).
      So yes, if something is organic, in theory it should also be non-GMO. Something that is just non-GMO is not necessarily organic. Sometimes it may be grown using organic methods, but could not claim the “organic” label, because you have to go through a costly process to certify yourself for this, and it is simply out of reach for many small producers, even if they do attempt to grow in what is basically an organic way.

  7. Kay Sheehan says:

    Please continue to get the real facts about GMO’s out to the public in terms that the common man can understand. The general public needs to be able to read and possibly relate the hidden health risks to their own bodies. Thank you for your diligence and research.

  8. ian says:

    I think it is clear now the scientists can throw it back and forth and say things we dont understand ,i think that this is the nail in the coffin for biotech,and anyone who eats it is also seriously mad; the only way is organic,if you want fat salt and sugar,go to the supermarket,the best thing is to get some land and grow it yourself ,tastes better,cyou know then its not gm or contaminated with chemicals.

  9. This is a clear cut case of fraud and collusion. Even a surveyor making a mistake is subject to suit because his license presumes that he knows what he is doing. Whenever you find gross violations like this in science, government or politics no one loses even so much as their jobs let alone their ability to see the light of day over a life sentence. This is about the total pollution of the human genome and all that people do is debate the mechanics of it.

  10. Kim says:

    I am sorry but, have to laugh. hahaha. Where are all the GMO defenders who usually show up to comment, and tell us how good GMOs are. Saving the world, excetera… I see here qualified minds of logic who actually study all this…Where have you been? I spend all my time trying to inform people of the problems, and am treated like a looney tune. (Maybe, but my argument has premises which can be upheld).
    Needs to go on my blog. And the only thing that makes sense to me here are the comments,telling the world in layman’s talk.
    I am actually so excited am crying now. I am stunned… This is the scientific evidence that may be noticed.
    Too much….Like the Earth just stopped spinning,
    If you want to see how this comes down follow my blog.
    Antiphopholipid and Pesticide Effects Blog
    Will watch over our egg, and keep it warm.
    Here is the reason they want to take away everyones guns and clamp down on freedom. They made a bad bet and want to welch on it. Although the labeling issue is important.
    Isn’t this the way our body becomes a pesticide factory in he case of BTs? hmmm

  11. Charles Rader says:

    I appreciate the science as part of an ongoing effort to understand anything that has to do with safety of our food supply. But I completely fail to understand the hype in this news article, and especially in the accompanying comments.

    The scientists who published this research make it very clear that they did not find an actual danger. They identified a possible relationship between a gene sequence used in GMO plants and another gene in the same CAMV virus. The relationship is an overlap. That’s analogous to a text like: “Add sugar and stir in.” and “Stir in the oil.” The virus is able to save a few letters in its genome be using “stir in” as both the end of one sentence and the beginning of the other. The research considers the possibility that the GMO food, containing “add sugar and stir in” but not containing “the oil” might somehow encounter the sequence “the oil” somewhere else, join to the “stti in” and therefore be able to execute “Stir in the oil.” with unexpected consequences. Part of the research was to assess the probability of such the two sequences coming together. Another part of the research was to see what effects “stir in the oil” might have. No bad effects were identified. Finally the researchers considered whether “stir in the oil” could be further modified by some other process to have a bad effect, e.g. “stir in then boil”

    All well and good.

    But anyone who eats cabbage, broccoli, etc. is with almost absolute certainty being exposed to the same “add sugar and stir in the oil” because the CAMV virus is present, or failing that, because the cabbage family long ago incorporated some of the CAMV genes into its own genome.

    This doesn’t mean that the research is useless or silly. It contributes to our understanding of possible problems that can arise from genetic modification or any kind, and might well suggest ways that these possible problems can be detected or avoided. But it’s wrong and irresponsible to hype this as “serious ramifications for crop biotechnology and its regulation, but possibly even greater ones for consumers and farmers.” That’s only going to stoke up the fear campaign now being waged against GMOs.

  12. Della says:

    I am a qualified mind who studies this, and I am absolutely definitely NOT a GMO defender. And I agree that using viruses is potentially dangerous. However, articles that call the cauliflower mosaic virus a “belated discovery” are just fueling the people who are. As someone said earlier, these have been used in crop GMOs for a very long time. No one was trying to hide anything, you can get this information in about 5 minutes of a google search, and you always could.

    I found a really good book on this stuff, written for lay people, called “Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering.” It’s on Amazon. If you want to know how this stuff works and more importantly, how it got approved by the government, you should read it.

    • jrlatham says:

      Della
      You missed the point. CaMV is supposed to be there but Gene VI was not.

      • August Pamplona says:

        Pieces of the Gene VI open reading frame do not equal Gene VI (much less anything resulting in Gene VI product).

    • Madeleine Love says:

      Della, Food regulators are obligated to examine any novel proteins that may be potentially produced in the GM crop, and ensure their safety is [at least nominally] tested. The fact that they overlooked this protein coding DNA included with the pure ‘promoter’ code may highlight the laxity in their work or perhaps highlight the impossibility of the task for a few select individuals in a government body, chosen for this work, to be fully accountable to populations of multi-millions. In my view they have failed in their duties.

      For their ‘assessment of safety’ the food regulators have chosen to rely, solely in most cases here in Australia, on information provided by the financially interested GM crop developers. This practice, profoundly open to conflict of interest abuse, is obviously fraught, frequently observed yet not dealt with.

      Back to this particular case, I have looked through many full GM crop application dossiers from the companies and have not noticed any mention of Gene VI DNA attached to the ‘pure promoter’. Although Latham and Wilson write as though inclusion of Gene VI was accidental, to me, looking at the references supporting the GM company’s own advocacy material, it seems unlikely. If I am right that they had knowledge, I wonder why it was not reported. If I am not right that they had knowledge, and were hence unable to comply with the most rudimentary regulatory requirements, then we see, by their surprise, more evidence that the outcomes of DNA manipulation of food crops are not reasonably foreseeable, and that the existence of these crops should be reconsidered.

      Further this finding highlights more clearly than before how regulators sit back and wait to be told what the financially interested company wants, or is able, to tell them, rather than undertake genuine investigation themselves. As a citizen I was eager to delve to the origins of all the code but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to look at the promoters.

      So what is it with the food regulators in this particular case? Did they read through the references and fail to have the imagination and understanding to forsee the issue? Read through the references and understand the issue, yet decide to keep it from the public? Fail to read through the references? Or something else?

      In the cases where Open Reading Frame assessments were done, and putative proteins/polypeptides found, these were only run through toxin/allergen databases. Yet what if they were proteins/peptide arising from the Gene VI code that interfere with immune defense mechansims as they do in plants? We would not have consumed these curtate novel proteins before. There should be a lot more work on this.

      I sat in with individuals with these regulatory responsibilities in a masterclass on risk management. The facilitor asked the participants (paraphrasing) “If you make a mistake that ends up having some adverse consequences, is it because you were evil, or because you were stupid?” The roar “Because we were stupid” overwhelmed any other response that might have been given. There are limits. I see us in deep water and for no other reason than for the eager launch of a corporate/state ship.

      • August Pamplona says:

        Madeleine, are food regulators obligated to examine any novel proteins which may be produced by conventional breeding?

        Are food regulators *more* obligated to examine novel hypothetical proteins which are almost certainly not even produced than they are obligated to examine novel proteins which are almost certainly produced through mutation breeding (and almost certainly unknowable –since we have no idea what we are looking for)?

        The answer to the second question appears to be yes. Yet, strangely,, the procedure which is introducing unknown, unstudied proteins is the latter (which undergoes zero oversight) and not the former (for which no amount of oversight for what is addressing what is, essentially, an imagined threat –at least in the example of this promoter– seems to be sufficient in the minds of many). Where is the sense in that?

        • Madeleine Love says:

          There is so much rhetorical error in that comment it is difficult to respond to it in the direct literal sense.

          If you are making an argument that mutation breeding should attract regulatory oversight of the type given to GM crops then I think you will find scientific support, and as such, support amongst groups that advocate for oversight of GM crops See section 1.3 in “GMO Myths and Truths” http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf

          The general question of whether mutation breeding receives adequate regulatory oversight does not mitigate any of the risks associated with GM crop development, nor reduce the need for any of its established regulatory oversight requirements.

          The issue being discussed here is whether ESFA fulfilled its regulatory obligations in respect of the promoter constructs used in so many GM crops.

          Following established international guidance documents, such as Codex Alimentarus, signatory food regulators are required to examine any novel gene product or potential gene product, including new RNA and protein molecules whether intended or unintended in the GM crop. As part of their safety mandate, the regulator would determine the kind and extent of testing necessary to establish the safety of these gene products. The testing requested by the regulator will depend on the assumptions and choices they make, but an incomplete risk assessment is not an option.

        • Madeleine Love says:

          Depending on what country you live in and marketing intent there are established procedures for assessing the safety and efficacy of crops in general. This includes examining the content of known crop-related toxins using field trial products.

          The additional regulatory requirements for GM crops are specific to particular risks arising from the novel GM constructs and techniques. This commentary asks questions about whether the food regulators fulfilled their obligations.

  13. Bruce Bingham says:

    Perhaps some of these companies should be sued out of existence, and, as suggested above, the future well-being of the human race taken out of the hands of profit driven corporations and given to state-funded scientists

  14. Brandon says:

    “their own competence and self-interest would prevent them from ever bringing potentially harmful products to the market”

    Just a side note from my perspective: much of the trouble comes from mixing this view of free markets with conflicting views of government regulation. They cannot co-exist. Government regulation short circuits a free market, competitive self-regulation. For a government to claim they will regulate an industry but then operate upon principles of a free-market instead is simply fascist. I think that a true free market where no one looks to and trusts the government to protect them but are instead cautious and discerning of what is “out there” would be a much greater check on companies like Monsanto than any regulatory body. (I realize it’s a very complicated issue) http://contrast2.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/bungee-jumping-and-investing/

    • jrlatham says:

      Brandon
      At the moment we have regulators (generalising somewhat) who seem to see their job as pretending to regulate, providing reassurance to the public, without hindering what industry wants to do. The article we published early last year by William Sanjour explains this clearly about EPA when he worked there. The regulations were designed not to work from the start. It’s a great article: http://independentsciencenews.org/health/designed-to-fail-why-regulatory-agencies-dont-work/
      On our sister site http://www.bioscienceresource.org there is also (in the resources section) a peer-reviewed article by David Pelletier of Cornell University detailing (through memos etc) how FDA came to view the regulation of GMOs, in which science was specifically excluded from the outcome. If this is really true, and I see no reason to doubt it, then we would be better off without the pretense. Monsanto would have to rely on its good name to sell its products and right now I’m going to hazard a guess they couldnt do that, nor many other companies.

  15. Kim says:

    Sadly I am not shocked by this. It just makes me very sad every time I read yet another article about GMO’s. I recently had a conversation with an executive where I work about GMO’s and Monsanto. When he heard how passionate I was about this subject he laughed and asked if my parents were hippies. Kills me how closed minded people are.

  16. KO says:

    WHat I need to know, is what are the implications of this on my bee colonies?

  17. Chris says:

    I know the FDA Food Protection Czar Michael Taylor is a formed Monsanto Lawyer, but what is the “official” benefit of doing this to our produce? I don’t understand this notion of inserting viral genetic material into anything in a safe way. Weren’t soybeans fine like they were? I won’t eat non-GMO, so I am really limited on what I can eat, especially in the realm of corn, which is basically 100% GMO now. I am sickened by the idea that it is moving into Pork, Salmon, when will it end. The term Frankenfoods, doesn’t really apply because these are more like Chimerafoods…with pieces that don’t belong together!!

  18. Todd says:

    There is too much irrational fear of GMOs. I think the problem is that too many people cant comprehend what they are reading. They dont understand how GMOs work, and when they do “research” they go to biased sites, or watch “Food Inc”, and now think they are an expert. Organic is a fad, and unsustainable. Organic is NOT the answer. These studies go back and forth, and the results are picked apart, and debunked. I have read nothing so far that will make me avoid GMOs in the future. I will not be a part of the uninformed/misinformed fear mongering.

    • Madeleine Love says:

      Regardless of the source or nature of people’s concerns about GMO’s these concerns are well-founded and supported by a strong scientific base, .

      • August Pamplona says:

        No regardless of the source, concerns about GMO’s are not automatically well founded in science, Madeleine. Not even close. This is a ridiculous statement. Some concerns may be founded in science and some may not be.

        For instance, the concerns expressed by a certain Dr. Rima E. Laibow MD which was linked to by commenter Ralph Fucetola JD are crackpottery of the worst kind and utter nonsense. The concerns expressed in this article, on the other hand, do not quite fall in that category; but to say that they are *well* founded in science might be an overly generous assessment.

        • Madeleine Love says:

          No August, the conclusion to consider GM food & crops an insufficiently measured risk (on many angles) is scientifically well-founded, regardless of the material that was used to bring a person to that conclusion.

          • August Pamplona says:

            Nonsense! Excluding deliberate mischief (e.g. breeding your tomatoes to produce ricin), I’ve seen no evidence of any risk using transgenic technologies with no equivalent or greater counterpart which is produced through conventional breeding techniques and almost no one* rants about the dangers of hybridization** and selective breeding.

            * Yup, I know of one such person but she is the exception and not the rule.
            ** In fact I know of one case of cattle deaths tied to unexpected toxicity of a grass hybrid.

          • DP says:

            Make that 2. Nature is as it is for a reason. Cross-breeding and pollination may improve, but it will also always upset a balance that exists with purpose. Hopefully the seed vaults hold unaltered stock.

          • August Pamplona says:

            DP wrote:
            «Make that 2. Nature is as it is for a reason. Cross-breeding and pollination may improve, but it will also always upset a balance that exists with purpose.»

            There’s no “balance that exists with a purpose”. Your carrots don’t care at all if they are nice to you or not. YYour genome is littered with the aftermath of retroviruses which did not end up there as a result of “a balance that exists with a purpose”. There is only descent with modification and natural selection. Sometimes we are the natural selection (yes, we are part of nature).

            DP wrote:
            «Hopefully the seed vaults hold unaltered stock.»

            There’s no such thing as “unaltered stock”. Everything is altered.

          • DP says:

            Point well-taken, but what proof do we have that natural mutation isn’t in some way more perfect than our feeble attempts to address a single problem at a time? Does alteration occur naturally if thechange doesn’t meet the need of the environment?

          • August Pamplona says:

            «Point well-taken, but what proof do we have that natural mutation isn’t in some way more perfect than our feeble attempts to address a single problem at a time?»

            No proof whatsoever. Just like there’s not proof whatsoever that unicorns do not have our best interest at heart. Mutations (generally speaking) are random. Perfect is a word that doesn’t really apply.

            «Does alteration occur naturally if the change doesn’t meet the need of the environment?»

            Mutation happens all the time. The multiplicity of ways in which genomes (including our own) are altered is only beginning to be understood. It happens all the time and in many different ways. It has no purpose. It is not goal seeking. It doesn’t care what the environment is. It doesn’t care whether it benefits us. It doesn’t “meet the needs of the environment”, it just is.

            Mutation is the feedstock of evolution. Mutation doesn’t care about what is needed to fit in the environment. Rather, the environment takes care of whether the changes which meet that fit are ultimately retained in subsequent generations. If we do the selection (which only means that we become the part of the environment which matters most for selection purposes), the process is exactly the same. It is a certainty that we meet with traits which do not suit us from natural (or from artificially induced*) mutation. We do not allow these traits to survive (it should be noted that the same traits we cull might be adaptive under selective pressures different than those which we humans might be imposing).

            * This not being qualitatively different from the natural variety.

    • Mary says:

      I just have to ask Todd how in the world organic is not sustainable when it was the way crops were grown for thousands of years. They seemed to do just fine then. Playing God with food does not make sense to me when it comes to sustainability, nor when it comes to health. These crops, plants, and animals were created the way they were, either by a higher power or evolution, your flavor of choice, to fit and work together for the benefit of the planet, and to screw with them is going to bring consequences we have not yet seen. And that opinion comes from my own research which has included information from organic/non-GMO supporters and GMO supporters such as yourself.

      • DAVID HUTING says:

        Todd, your statements make it clear just how ignorant you are. Why don’t you take a step back and look at the bigger picture: Everything in nature is designed to work in perfect harmony with each other and nature provides everything we need to survive. Our bodies benefit from organic (natural) foods because it is coded in our DNA to recognize these as legitimate food sources. When you start tinkering with the DNA of Nature, especially food, our bodies no longer recognize this food as food – it becomes a foreign substance. This causes an immune response. This over time explains why things like food allergies have been significantly on the rise in the past decade, especially with children – they are the ones that are most sensitive to GMOs. How is this hard for you to grasp? Are you one of those “science” worshippers that can’t believe something unless it is proven by the scientific community? Wake up – they are paid by the same people and companies that are profiting from GMO, biotech, cancer, cancer research, media, education (the ones training the scientists), government, and politics (how else can the FDA and other government agencies be so corrupt?). If you want to continue eating GMO garbage, the choice is completely yours – just don’t ruin other open minded people’s chance to see the truth by stating comments like yours. The information is there, you just have to open your eyes a bit bigger. Wake up dude.

  19. So a stray bit of DNA got through without the rigorous testing regime noticing it? That’s hardly surprising It’s high time genetic “engineers” reviewed the lessons of software validation. In software testing, we know that only the most trivial programs can be tested empirically. Serious software validation involves a spectrum of methods that go way beyond testing, including formal proofs (a rare luxury) and, most particularly, code inspection. Nothing beats a human brain (or better still, a team of brains) poring over source code, exploring it mentally, looking for logic errors, or stray elements that just don’t make sense.

    But you have to understand the code you’re reading. So I’ve long been concerned that they just cannot know enough about how DNA works to be able to meaningfully code-inspect the products of recombinant genetic engineering (although in the reported case, perhaps a simple inspection of the sequence would have spotted the viral gene fragment; does anyone even read the sequence before a GMO goes into production?).

    Empirical black box testing is the only tool available for validating GMOs, but any software engineer will tell you, that’s not enough. There can be very little confidence in any amount of testing of such a complex system as a modified genome.

    See a longer presentation of the argument here: http://lockstep.com.au/blog/2011/01/15/not-ready-for-gm.

  20. This sort of result from what we’ve identified as a “genomicidal technology” leads to what Dr. Rima E. Laibow MD has identified as: Genome Disruption Syndrome. – see: http://www.GDS-Therapy.com for more information.

  21. John Vreeland says:

    This article seems overheated. The gene is incomplete, and so probably does not do any of the things the authors fret about. Perhaps too much depends on what the original authors meant by “significant fragment.” But even assuming the worst case, that a complete viral gene was encoded and was actually expressed, then the plants would be obviously sick and would be unmarketable. This is why there was no recall issued, clearly the relevant protein was not being produced.

    It does strike me, though, that people are only making a big deal about this now, when it should have been known ages ago. Especially given how easy it is to check these things. Are you using a transgenic promoter? Lets sequence it to make sure it doesn’t contain any surprises.

    • Beedoo says:

      @ John Vreeland – In short, incomplete genes may or may not be harmful, but that depends on multiple aspects of the whole gene’s original makeup. For example, some are very stable and will remain in exactly the tiny bits you broke them into, and might even bond well with what it’s being spliced into, but genes (or fragments) that don’t change enough to adapt to the new environment generally can’t reproduce.

      The whole point of including any sort of viral-based gene sequence in GM foods is to profit (physically, in the reproductive sense of sustaining a living plant and possibly breed-able offspring,) from its ability to mutate and adapt. For lack of another comparison coming to mind (sorry), it’s like giving a Borg drone its nano-implantation tubules so it can go on to infect new drones all by itself. Without such a reproductive function, the Borg hive (aka the new specifically modified plant) is extinct after the first generation, if it is even able to hold together long enough to leave the petri dish.

      Not to say the new plant strains couldn’t survive without a virus or two swimming in it (which I don’t know; I’m not in the field), but including such highly adaptive DNA certainly improves chances of survival enough that it appears to be a widespread practice, beyond just the inclusion of “Gene VI”. Gene VI is only raising as bright a red flag as it is because it reportedly wasn’t meant to wind up in some of the places it was later found.

      Also, cutting pieces out of a virus may not only still leave it with the mutative ability of the whole version, but in some cases could (I gather from the mention Madeline Love made of varied lengths typically indicating an unintentional “break”) additionally encourage split-off bits of virus code to form faster, more, and/or more greatly varied mutations than the whole, intact virus normally would or could – after all, that’s how viruses have stuck around as long as we have. Mutation is their survival.

      So the concern is that these virus bits carried in the GM plants, which have already mutated into something slightly different than they were when they were first inserted there, could further mutate into strains that would put new kinds of strain on our digestive system, or, worst case scenario, produce new human illnesses.

      Bottom line, similar viruses found in nature haven’t had a whole lot of success jumping from plant to animal or vice-versa, so human infection wasn’t previously an issue. Whether scientists intended to insert a given virus or not, any modified virus that’s been prodded at and encouraged to mutate so it can thrive in a type of plant it never has before also poses some risk of adapting to infect animal tissue too. However little this chance may be, it’s a risk that’s nonexistent in “organic”, non-GE crops.

      I apologise if i repeated myself too much, it’s very early in the morning here.

  22. Joan Russow says:

    There has been mounting evidence about the harm, of various transgenic crops, to human health and the environment. If, with this new evidence, the regulators do not 1) recall all CaMV Gene VI-containing crops they will be grossly negligent.

    Even though .”recall would be a massive political and financial decision, would also be a huge embarrassment to the regulators themselves, would leave very few GMO crops on the market and it might even mean the end of crop biotechnology” recall must happen.

    There is sufficient evidence now to justify invoking the precautionary principle, which reads: where there is a threat to human health or the environment the lack of full scientific certainity shall not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent the threat. The precautionary principle, which appears in the universally adopted Rio Declaration and in the legally binding Convention on Biological Diversity has become an international peremptory norm and as such, a state obligation.

    It is extraordinary that regulatory agencies would even consider the other two options. Their role has to be the protection of human health and of the environment.

    • ArcherB says:

      Why should they recall these products? These foods have been out for over 20 years, as stated by the very first sentence of this article. So far, there have been zero ill effects from any of these products. The “mounting evidence about the harm, of various transgenic crops, to human health and the environment” is nonexistent.

      Just because you THINK a product is harmful, doesn’t mean it should be recalled. Actually, holding a recall would be proof in incompetence from these agencies, as they would fall prey to the absolute FUD people like you keep spreading.

      • Tanya Q says:

        Many say that we have been eating these foods for 20 years and there have been no ill effects. How can this be determined when these products are 1. not labeled and 2. most people are not even aware that they have been consuming them? I believe the ill effects are there…and industry has effectively hidden them.

        • Mary E. says:

          Tanya Q, “Many say that we have been eating these foods for 20 years and there have been no ill effects. How can this be determined when these products are 1. not labeled and 2. most people are not even aware that they have been consuming them? I believe the ill effects are there…and industry has effectively hidden them.”

          Yes, I also believe that it is hard to prove that certain chemicals or GM foods cause the ill effects. I think this is why these companies are not regulated. Mark Bittman shared this YouTube video today, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfGMYdalClU. Pretty scary to think this is how our world could end up.

      • Barry says:

        The premise that ” These foods have been out for over 20 years, as stated by the very first sentence of this article. So far, there have been zero ill effects from any of these products.” is quite an unjustifiable statement based on supposition? In the last 20 years there has been increases in food allergies, autism, cancers and a multitude of maladies that seem to be on the rise. Assuming that GMO’s have nothing to do with this is a likely scenario correlating to picking just about anything else as the culprit, or combination of contributors. As the human species reproduces at a very slow rate compared to most all other mammals, unnatural or intentionally mutated DNA ingested which very well might cause quite a different outcome than anticipated. Third or fourth generation ingesting these contaminated products might just produce a multitude of unanticipated and deadly health problems. These products, growth hormones, etc have been banned by other countries due to omission of satisfactory conclusions or health hazards already known. Before intensive testing can be done, all these GMO products should be contained and even recalled until such assurances can be given with known outcomes, not unknown consequences.

        I, for one do not trust a Monsanto lawyer, hired FDA employee returning as Vice Pres of Monsanto, then head of the “new” agricultural dept that gives the assent for all these GMO’s, the go ahead with no more testing than “if” there is a problem in the future to give cause for more intensive submission of documentation (upon proof). You are much more trusting in Big Corporate Caring and coercive lobbying than I am.

      • Beedoo says:

        As far as ill effects, yes, they there are those. The recent booms of Siliac’s Disease, “Leaky Gut”, allergies, and more began within a few years of this stuff entering the supermarkets. (Autism, as someone else mentioned… I’m not sure if that’s food-based. It has, however, been positively correlated with mercury-mimicking additives in many common immunization shots we and our kids receive. Some of the affected population have a sensitivity to these compounds, others simply can’t excrete them fast enough and build toxicity until noticeable damage is done.)

        This is actually somewhat easier to trace than you might think if you delve into the details of the typical diagnoses for these, especially Celiac and gluten intolerance – it can be estimated that the average sufferer is able to ingest a steady diet of offending GMOs (assuming only a select few GM foods are responsible for the harm, and not the whole industry,) for a period of between five and twenty years before symptoms escalate enough to warrant the diagnosis. Nearly all of the diagnosed individuals out there, though, have complained of symptoms much sooner than the point of seeing their doctor, or of seeing a doctor who knew what he was looking at.

        Accounting for this, damage (as noticeable by the patient) apparently is common beginning anywhere from the first month of regular ingestion to just a few years later. In particularly hardy individuals, it may well take around ten to fifteen years before substantial or regular digestive/enzymatic disruptions occur. Of course, there is, too, the confounding factor of varied GE intake, especially back when E foods weren’t so prevalent. The surge in diagnoses within the last half of GE’s consumption record so far may well coincide with the increasing percentage of GE food. That, unfortunately, is a study that i don’t believe has been done yet.

        … On a more personal note, I went on an outing with a friend of mine recently and met her father, who had been peripherally introduced to the topic of organic diets thanks to two relatives with later-in-life wheat allergies. He had been told some vaguery about food allergies relying on a person’s genetics, and little else regarding the mechanics or the “whys”.

        I mentioned to him that there is growing evidence of food adulteration playing a primary role, and how some individual GE strains have even been pointed out as more than likely culprits – one such that I’ve read about is a Monsanto corn strain designed with enzymes that burst open the bellies of its natural pest predators.

        My friend’s father hadn’t even heard of GMOs. He shrugged and changed the topic.

        Afterward, I pondered on what he said about the genetic factor. Sure, some of us are born with less ability to digest lactose, or gluten, or protein, etcetera. But what happens when it’s not our genetic code that’s a little iffy, but rather the genetic code of what we’re eating that’s been reorganised into a foreign configuration? What if both of these conditions existed at once, and someone with a normally mild or undetectable allergy routinely ingests the ever-changing GE versions of the food that triggers the allergic reaction? How does the body cope, and how much change can it take in the molecular structure of its sustenance before it can’t cope at all?

        Not to be alarmist; just food for thought, if you’ll excuse the pun. Possibilities need to be considered, then ruled out or verified – not ignored on account of being controversial.

  23. Nathan McCorkle says:

    These are pretty ‘funny’… I almost started thinking that article had
    some ‘substance’, but alas it wasn’t really well supported:
    ‘When Gene VI is intentionally expressed in transgenic plants, it
    causes them to become chlorotic (yellow), to have growth deformities’
    This says nothing about what happens when the trailing/broken end
    fragment is expressed…

    ‘ Since the known targets of Gene VI activity (ribosomes and gene
    silencing) are also found in human cells, a reasonable concern is that
    the protein produced by Gene VI might be a human toxin.’
    Doesn’t mention that we’re quite different machinery-wise. Seems like
    they could test this pretty quick by throwing the gene into some
    tissue culture cells. AMES test even?

    The ask ‘Is Gene VI Protein Produced in GMO Crops?’
    Then don’t give any factual evidence, isn’t this test easily
    accomplished with a western blot?

    • jrlatham says:

      Nathan
      Your three questions
      1) We do know that partial pieces of Gene VI can be functional
      2) You think we are quite different, some people think we are quite similar to plants, is not going to help anyone. As you say, actual experimental tests are in order but EFSA and other regulators haven’t done any and by now they are probably wishing they had. So are we all. Since it was their job they should take the responsibility.
      3) To do a Western blot you need an antibody, which can’t be whistled up. You also need to know what size protein you might be looking for and since fusions and bits of proteins are likely to be what is found then how will you know when you have found it? Also, how sensitive is an antibody test going to be? This is not an easy road, as the article touched on.

  24. Gavin Venn says:

    Hi Jonathan and Alison,

    The authors of the research have given the following statement. It would be useful if you can comment on this.

    Dr Nancy Podevin and Professor Patrick du Jardin:

    “It has been known for some years that a DNA sequence used to turn genes on and off (a gene switch) in some GM plants also forms the tail end of a virus gene in the Cauliflower mosaic virus. This naturally occurring plant virus is ubiquitous in plants and derived foods, both GM and non-GM, and does not pose safety concerns to human and animal health.”

    “In the light of recent advances in the understanding of how this gene behaves when it occurs within a virus, we did a comprehensive risk assessment of the part of the Cauliflower mosaic virus used as a gene switch. We were looking at how the presence of part of this viral gene may affect the physiology of the GM plants. We studied the variants of the gene switch that are introduced in GM plants and the conditions under which this gene segment could be turned on to produce a viral protein fragment, in detail. No risks to human health were identified when this gene was present in GM plants.”

    • abbeysbooks says:

      I am suspicious of the epidemic of gluten intolerance is caused by Monsanto’s genetic modification of wheat. I think this connects with this article above. Here’s what I have blogged about it. http://occupytabloids.blogspot.com/2013/01/is-monsantos-genetically-modified-wheat.html

      • August Pamplona says:

        abbeysbooks wrote:
        «I am suspicious of the epidemic of gluten intolerance is caused by Monsanto’s genetic modification of wheat.»

        You can start looking somewhere else, then. There’s no commercially released transgenic wheat out there.

          • August Pamplona says:

            You have a link that says there’s some GMO wheat stored in some vault in Colorado? So what? You really mean to suggest the “epidemic of gluten intolerance” is due to GMO wheat being stored in a vault?

            My point is that, as far as I can tell, we are not eating transgenic wheat. We did have that fiasco in Oregon involving possibly suspicious circumstances a few weeks ago and that has prompted a look at other wheat and I believe that none has been found (of course, that could change but at the very least we know it’s not ubiquitous).

    • jrlatham says:

      Hi Gavin
      The issue of whether the CaMV virus and whether the Gene VI protein are safe are very different ones. If the virus could be safely eaten that would not show that the Gene VI was safe, nor vice versa. Podevin and du Jardin have introduced a red herring. The statement from EFSA introduced the same red herring http://www.efsa.europa.eu/it/faqs/faqinsertedfragmentofviralgeneingmplants.htm . The real point is that the regulators allowed a viral gene to pass through their supposedly watertight and rigorous regulatory system. This viral gene fragment has more a priori potential for harm than any other gene yet commercialised yet they never specifically addressed VI at all. That should give consumers much cause for alarm.

      On their second point, Podevin and du Jardin were not clear in their paper whether harm might occur towards humans. We have gone further than them but our reasoning is clear and considered.

      • August Pamplona says:

        «The issue of whether the CaMV virus and whether the Gene VI protein are safe are very different ones. If the virus could be safely eaten that would not show that the Gene VI was safe, nor vice versa. Podevin and du Jardin have introduced a red herring.»

        Nonsense! That’s just hand waving on your part. The mechanisms by which the CaMV could conceivably not be safe due to the Gene VI product are by the protein being introduced into cells and having the sorts of effects you so thoroughly elucidated for us. The mechanisms by which ingesting the Gene VI product by itself could conceivably not be safe are by the protein being introduced into cells and having the sorts of effects you so thoroughly elucidated for us.

        Unless you are willing to make some special pleading for the virus being naturally occurring and therefore obviously not harmful (you know, just like Ebola), we are talking about the same thing.

  25. AC says:

    Gosh, I’m just shocked the nice, fluffy, biotech corporations have been (probably knowingly) feeding us poison for two decades.

    Shocked.

  26. Peter says:

    This would most likely explain celiac, ibs and other allergic diseases on the rise. As an IBS sufferer I knew it had something to do with GMO’s because I am most allergic to the most abundant GM foods like corn, soy and dairy (cattle are feed GM foods). I hope we change our agricultural methods because what’s happening to me and others will eventually happen to all over time. This will severely limit what we as humans will be able to eat, thus making us susceptible to starvation due to food that is not edible.

    • Chris says:

      I am right there with you. I have learned about the GMO’s being used in malto-dextrin, which comes from Corn, and is in about everything. Even Vitamins are made from these ingredients. There is a website called the Non-GMO Project and it has links to food sources, many of which you can find in regular grocery stores if they have the Non-GMO seal on their label. You probably already know this, but I am posting for you and other people who may not know. I just started taking Non-GMO vitamins today. I never even considered my vitamins, made by Pfizer could be causing harm to my health.
      Those GMO’s are sneaky little devils.

      • August Pamplona says:

        So basically you are afraid of maltodextrin from GMO which is identical to maltodextrin not from GMO? You are afraid of GMO cooties?

        • Chris says:

          Did I say I was afraid of anything in my comments. Your ugliness comes from fear. In answer to your snarky comment, if Bt toxin found in Corn-generated Maltodextrin is what you call the “Cooties,” then I do try to avoid it. No, I am not fearful of it, I just don’t want it to aggravate my IBS, sorry to have bothered you. God Bless.

          • August Pamplona says:

            So (independent of whether there’s any reason to believe that small levels of Cry proteins might affect IBS) the question then is whether there are any significant levels of Cry toxin in GMO derived maltodextrin? Or do you suppose that such maltodextrin might, effectively, be a protein free ingredient? If the latter, why should there be any concern as to whether the source is GMO. If the former, who is making this maltodextrin because they are probably doing something wrong?

            P.S. What do you think I am afraid of? Do you think I also fear cooties?

          • DP says:

            Yep. I’m afraid of GMO Cooties. And I don’t care what-comes-from-where or any other gray area on this topic. I don’t want my food sources modified. And why is there arguing here–that confusion is what forces us into mini-battles against each other instead of demanding we be told when our food has been hyped up by scientists. Really.

          • August Pamplona says:

            Apparently, I do not comment, I battle.

            No, seriously, no battling necessary.

            I’m not much of a betting person but I would bet money (if I had any to bet and the means to verify the bet) that while Chris is concerned about the intake in maltodextrin of a single Cry protein at levels which would probably require mas spectrometry to be detected (assuming they are even detectable) he probably shows no concern whatsoever when he goes to his local farmers market over whether the organic produce he’s buying has been sprayed with BT containing not one but many different Cry proteins as well as thousands of other proteins with unknown effects on the body. I find this very curious.

            By the way, did you realize that sometimes direct injections into vines of BT bacteria are sometimes used to control squash borer and that the squash from said vines can be sold as “organic” produce?

            «I don’t want my food sources modified.»

            If you don’t want your food sources modified you will have to settle for primordial soup. Sorry, we’re fresh out of that (as of 3.5 billion years ago –give or take a few).

          • DP says:

            I’ll hop on the soap box for a minute, maybe stir up some ideas…my perspective…limited thought it may be. I believe this is the quandry that forces us all to concentrate on the battles, but steer clear of the war. :) We shouldn’t have to label foods “organic.” And we could never monitor what every mega-farmer does to our food, to make the profits he needs to cover his debt to the seed and distribution companies.

            Those profits could never be maintained growing and selling locally. So we’d eliminate ultra-wealthy farmers. (are there any beside the farms run strictly by corporation?) But. Even if a small farmer is adding chemicals to our foods…we CAN visit that local farm and check it out for ourselves, we can meet the owner “around town”, we can monitor the activities, suppliers and resources to that farmer. And that farmer should, in turn, be able to hire locally and keep the farm running at an efficient profit margin that also allows the farming family to have a life outside their work–or adapt their crops (plant late crops, grow in greenhouses, etc.) and products from year to year. Instead, the corporations make farming a living hell, outdoor sweat shops, and farmers are up against the wall to mass produce. All of a sudden, a seed that withstands weather variations looks very attractive.

            Limiting the size of the food suppliers is the bottom line. And the “war” that these battles are leading up to. It’s gotten so insane, the companies cross over each other as soon as one shows a point of profit. Purple lemon cookies go wild on the market, and all of a sudden, every company is making their own version. Faster, cheaper, bigger, pumped with whatever will addict our taste buds. This requires a huge manufacturing systems, untouchable by the humans who eat foods produced there.

            That’s the problem I have with packaged and modified foods, I have no idea where they came from, so if I do want to know what I’ve ingested, I don’t even know where to start looking.

            We cannot feed people en masse without some manipulations–food does not grow, or store, in mass quantities naturally. But a small farmer can’t survive on profits the general public can afford to sustain…none of this is really about the individual chemicals, but about the inability to provide fresh, unaltered foods, to our huge population, and make a profit doing so.

            It’s too large a war – we don’t even know where to start–so we fight the small battles, even though they don’t always cover all the aspects. The “organic” label is now turning a profit, so that’s also going to be manipulated and used for marketing purposes, so I don’t even bother with it anymore. The answer is to buy locally, regionally, from the farmers and ranchers I know and trust, and hope they live up to my expectations. Our grocery stores could handle that for us if they weren’t fighing mega-corps. The smaller farms still can’t do a thing about the polluted water, air or soil, but it’s still a huge step above twisted genetics.

            It’s not reasonable to expect every city to feed it’s masses from single family farms, but it is possible to limit the size of our food manufacturers to give us a better grip on it all. More companies, smaller product lines, and more control for the consumer.

            I’d opt for forbidding nationwide corporations to operate food stores, state-managed resources, and for more co-ops–where community funding helps keep the suppliers in business…but it will never happen as long as we demand thousands of choices and feed the brands. So for now I’m settling on the battle (and my right) to be able to “recognize every item on the ingredient list” and to know no scientific process was followed to change the seed used to grow those ingredients.

          • August Pamplona says:

            DP, I suspect if we engaged in a discussion we might find lots of disagreements as well as lots of common ground.

            I won’t get on a soap box (much) but I will link to a talk by someone who it would seem has a general outlook I might share:
            http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_foley_the_other_inconvenient_truth.html

            Another talk which many will not like me for is, of course, the infamous Mark Lynas talk from earlier this month:
            http://www.marklynas.org/2013/01/lecture-to-oxford-farming-conference-3-january-2013/

            Mainly, we need to use all the tools at our disposal. No single thing we have available to us can fix our problems. Refusing to use some tools out of hand is irresponsible and that is what the scaremongering based on nothing which is exemplified by Latham & Wilson’s post here is meant to lead us into.

  27. Ron Wroblewski says:

    “This attribute of Gene VI raises two obvious biosafety concerns: 1) Gene VI will lead to aberrant gene expression in GMO crop plants, with unknown consequences and, 2) Gene VI will interfere with the ability of plants to defend themselves against viral pathogens. There are numerous experiments showing that, in general, viral proteins that disable gene silencing enhance infection by a wide spectrum of viruses (Latham and Wilson 2008).”
    My concern is that Gene VI will not only interfere with the ability of plants defending themselves but the human consumer will also uptake Gene VI interrfering now with the human host ability to defend themselves from viral pathogens. Could this be planned to wreck out immune systems???

    • jrlatham says:

      Hi Ron
      The gut is likely to be an entry point for viruses and other pathogens. Gene VI turns off RNAi in plants and might do in humans. RNAi is a principle component of the innate immune system (distinct from the acquired immune system which is antibodies etc). It is what protects you the first time you are ever exposed to a new organism. There is definitely the potential for what you suggest. But planned? Personally, I don’t think so, not at least specifically. However, industry is in overdrive to try to disable utterly the scientific system and its ability to challenge its products. More from us on this important issue in due course.

      • abbeysbooks says:

        I have a “strong inference” that this is connected to the wild increase in gluten intolerance, most of which still goes undetected explained off as intestinal problems, Crones’s Disease and just plain stomach complaints. I had 5 years of it and in 2 days all symptoms stopped. Nice PhD dissertation for someone.

    • abbeysbooks says:

      Any relation to Edgar Sawtelle BTW? I’m rereading it I love it so much.

  28. Fran Murrell says:

    We are told that since the cauliflower mosaic virus is naturally occurring and infects plants such as cauliflowers and broccoli that we have been eating it for years with no ill effects. Do you have any comment on this?

    • jrlatham says:

      Fran
      There are several things to be clear about:
      1) The gene produced in these plants is almost certainly not going to be the same as the one produced by the virus itself. It is partial and if produced at all will likely be produced in many cells of each plant (so we might end up consuming much more than in a viral infection, for example) so there is no real ‘prior’ here.
      2) Even if there was a history of human consumption of this protein, the real question would be whether whatever we have been historically consuming is harmful. Unfortunately, merely knowing we have been eating something doesn’t tell us anything (despite astonishing numbers of claims to the contrary, often by people who surely know better). Only careful experiments can do that and I have been unable to find any evidence for CaMV, its parts, or its relatives, being tested in a way that might shed light on this. What we wrote in the article, therefore was mainly theory and inferences based on other viruses and the known effects of Gene VI in plants. As I put this elsewhere, if we have been eating lead arsenic and mercury, is that a reason why a company should put more of it into petrol, jewellery, etc? I think most readers would say that our prior (or background) consumption of these toxins is not relevant. Their inherent toxicity is the real question.

      • Fran Murrell says:

        Thanks for your response.

        EFSA says: ‘The viral gene (Gene VI) belongs to a plant virus (Cauliflower Mosaic virus) that cannot infect animals or humans and therefore presents no threat to human or animal health.” That is not my understanding from reading your article. Do you have any comment on EFSA’s assertion that plant viral genes can’t infect humans?

        EFSA also say GM applications have “…a detailed analysis of the inserted sequence. These applications have also included the extensive data required by EFSA to assess the potential for unintended effects.”

        However the title of the Podevin and du Jardin research is “Possible consequences of the overlap between the CaMV 35S promoter regions…..” which suggests that everything is not as known and clear cut as EFSA suggests.

        Does anyone know why the Podevin/du Jardin research was undertaken?

        On what basis is EFSA claiming that they have assessed the potential for unintended effects? It sounds a very grand claim with no underpinnings, especially since it seems that no one realised Gene VI encoding the multi-functional protein P6 was within the CaMV 35S promoter. Looks like quite a large oversight to me.

        • jrlatham says:

          Fran
          Not in your order of questions:
          The PDJ paper was looking for allergens produced by small coding sequences. They found instead Gene VI, went back to do their homework and discovered Gene VI is a well known Cauliflower Mosaic Virus Gene.
          If you contact us we can send you the paper but I can’t put it on the site or link to it as it is copyrighted.
          EFSA is claiming they have looked for unintended effects. They do this by sophisticated techniques like ‘observing the plants’. They don’t have a specific system, merely that the crop is tested for various specific attributes and if they match up EFSA considers it has done its job. When they don’t match up, which is common, verging on normal, they handwave the results away, as Prof Seralini showed when he analyzed Monsanto’s data on effects of a GMO on rats, data that EFSA had to be forced to reveal. Sorry I can’t right now provide a link, as I am away from the office. All regulators in our experience do exactly the same. The standard excuse is that the observed difference is not ‘harmful’ (or similar, another is to say that the observed difference is ‘in line with historical norms’ or some such and then find the necessary ‘historical norm’ by mining the literature and and looking at known soybeans or whatever the crop is, thus making the window of regulatory acceptability so large as to be meaningless) but that excuse reveals they have moved the goal posts so to speak (they were looking only for effects of any kind). Another way to nail this inconsistency is to point out that by this rationale no possible answer to any test they actually do could (except feeding studies) constitutes grounds for rejection. Even astonishing differences are ignored. The Roundup Ready Soy (at one time accounting for about 90% of the US soybean harvest) had a 7-11% yield reduction in their (USDA’s now) original assessment, which was borne out by later experiments yet USDA ignored it utterly, as did EFSA when they approved it for consumption (See our article Roundup Ready to Yield as Much as Conventional Soybeans for the whole scoop). It was clear evidence as you could wish that much more than just a specific trait had been changed.
          EFSA says: ‘The viral gene (Gene VI) belongs to a plant virus (Cauliflower Mosaic virus) that cannot infect animals or humans and therefore presents no threat to human or animal health.” I do not believe that EFSA can support this statement (which in any event is a red herring, it is beside the point if the intact replicating virus is or is not harmful). Very valuable indeed would be for individuals and organizations to ask for and collect answers to our points raised in the article (we can help). Wherever you live in the world and your local regulator has approved these crops they should be able to explain what they have done. Their explanations are likely only to get them into still more unscientific hot water. The answers will eventually become ever longer rope to hang themselves from. This statement from EFSA is a classic example. EFSA provided no references and I don’t believe they exist. They are bluffing. Essentially they are in an untenable position. Either they approved a gene by mistake, or they knew it was there but didn’t tell anyone, as EFSA is now claiming! Its worse, surely?
          Nothing is as known and clearcut at all as EFSA suggests.

  29. There are obviously several levels on which the meaning of this finding may be debated. I don’t know enough to follow the detailed genetics, but it seems to me that people cannot see the wood for the trees. The lessons for me here are on a different level; they’re methodological.

    The supposedly well managed and systemically safe *field* of genetic engineering has in this case produced a modified genome containing a sequence that should not have been there. Even ignoring the fact that the particular sequence is a bit viral and scary, the methodological issue is surely that the impact of a stray sequence cannot be known with confidence. Only months ago it was reported that junk DNA is not junk, overturning decades of conventional wisdom AND ASSUMPTIONS that have long been made by genetic engineers about the modularity of their work.

    Genetic code is massively parallel, in ways that we are only just beginning to grasp. How do you verify the safety of such code when it is modified (and in this case, modified with stray additions that escaped attention of the developers)? The lesson from software development is that no significant program can ever be verified by testing alone. Yet we don’t know enough about genetics to do a “code inspection”.

    Hell, the people responsible didn’t even have a basic scan in place to see if there were sequences in the product that didn’t belong.

    This episode is comparable to releasing an implantable defibrillator where at some point in development a programmer threw some random subroutines into the compiled machine code without anyone knowing. Imagine that at the time the extra random code is discovered, years after release, the defibs seem to have been working fine. The people debating this viral gene addition back and forth should reflect on this thought experiment. Should a patient be confident about their defib under those circumstances? Should regulators be happy with the approval processes?

    • Gavin Venn says:

      Hi Stephen,

      Following on, there is also the question of how the novel plant, with these potentially novel proteins can be tested in a real-world manner. At present no one is even looking for the novel proteins, or understands their effects in a laboratory with structured conditions.

      Once the crop is approved and commercially implemented, any laboratory test conditions are no longer so accurate, as the conditions in the real world acting on the plant are always changing.

  30. DP says:

    I quote:
    It is easy to see the attraction for EFSA of option two. Recall would be a massive political and financial decision and would also be a huge embarrassment to the regulators themselves. It would leave very few GMO crops on the market and might even mean the end of crop biotechnology.

    What else needs to be said? Ditch it! We’ll take our chances, smaller farms, smaller profits, lower prices…simple solution. Just take the corporations out of the mix.

  31. MRR says:

    For the record, the article does appear to be open access and thus available to all who want to read it:

    http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/gmcr.21406

    In general, it would seem like a good idea to put links to original papers in your articles about science news, and hightlight in some way those which are open access.

  32. Megan S says:

    I find it absolutely fascinating the information that keeps coming out about GMOs. Companies that contain GMOs keep trying to tell us their is nothing wrong with eating GMOs but I feel that really they have been trying to hide the truth for a profit. http://2ndgreenrevolution.com/2012/10/01/my-argument-for-organic-foods/ Makes my decision to eat organic foods more justified.

  33. Ken says:

    Compete novice here, but; does having the viral aspect in the crop in any way affect other crops as it grows? We hear about cross pollination of non-gmo crops by gmo crops, would this have that effect? Would Monsanto build this in to their canola so it wuold someday be the only one around?

    • DP says:

      Good point Ken! But you/we aren’t any more novice than they are, that’s the scary part. It’s simply astounding that every human on the face of the earth is at risk because of companies that manipulate the food we take from the earth. What right do they have to change nature? To force farmers to sell out, use their seeds exclusively, or go out of business? And to take all this power and use it so irresponsibly that we’re discovering “side effects” after generations have been subject to the dangers. And I do not believe for a moment they haven’t thought this all out. The concerns have been raised in boardrooms. That alone is a crime against mankind. And it may not be fixable — I think you have a very good point.

      • Ken says:

        I do believe that Monsanto has got to be the most evil corporation in the world right now. I have seen the documentaries showing their greed, and complete disregard of farmers and nature itself. We’re so sheltered here in the US, we don’t see what’s really going on in the rest of the world.

    • jrlatham says:

      Ken
      I don’t think this is LIKELY to affect other plants (though it is likely to outcross, contaminate other cultivars, etc) but then again it wouldn’t be strange if it behaved differently as a result of crossing into wild relatives. In biology its hard to rule things out because living systems are complex organisms and highly dependent on their environment. Do we think Monsanto (it would have to be lots of other companies, and universities too) have done this on purpose? I don’t see it. Anyway, their plans for domination of the seed supply are progressing quite nicely as it is.

      • DP says:

        This research and application is costly. Based on the bottom line alone, I don’t doubt they discussed the conditional lowering of overhead as the manipulations mutated themselves and spread to existing species. Somewhere, I would expect to see data, perhaps a lovely graph, of cost analysis, now and then…proving crops “benefitting” from the modifications would require less human interaction in the future.

        In all honesty, if they haven’t done that, they’d be poor business-people. And they are not. They know exactly how to turn a profit and force it to compound over time on its own.

  34. Dr. Patryce A. Smith~PhD says:

    Do people really believe that corporations are looking out for their health (or any other) interests? Their concern is the bottom line ..profit….the cheaper production of cheap junk food relates to more profit, more sick people, more profit, get the idea. It can be referred to as the gods of greed, money, wealth…
    Did you look at the rates of illness in the last 20 years …they have been rising steadily, the same as the chemical use in the world. Common sense should tell you if you mess with the growing seasons and the plant world you will get sickness and unhealthy foods to consume. Really people wake up…grow up…and realize the corporations are not your Mother & Father…they only are concerned with the profit margin of their junk foods for you to consume. Heard of obesity, diabetes, chronic illness on the rise? Well thank all the (hahaha) regulators, the governmental agencies supposed to look out for your safety, or even yourself for not being aware of what is happening in the world around you.

    • Dr. Smith TY…

      The horizontal and vertical transfer of genes is a difference of the branching in our future. By cutting off the natural way, already established, we lose our evolution.
      The Revolution of GMO has cut the branch.

      For those who cannot see the bigger picture of what is really happening in our world of deciet to push GMOs and claim none have been made ill…I have been trying to illustrate that in my blog.

      I started to do this in 2009 and have branched out to discover so many truths; a world of system bound, set and determined by any means to get everything possible and to not consider the effect of the actions.

      The actions are seperated from one another, so each part cannot see the whole picture. The branching is getting out of control.

      Monsanto as a leader is the place to CUT, along with the idea that profit at any cost is acceptable.

      I say by arresting and siezing all assets of these criminals of crimes against humanity. When that door is opened there will be a rush to loot and plunder that will be irresistable.

      That force alone is the fizz and pop of heat like putting hot water into baking soda. Cold water does not create the same reaction.

      MONSANTO IS IN HOT WATER…stuggling. And if I had any money I would put my bet into the options market for a sell in the future. And believe me, Monsanto is doing everything it can to profit from their own demise in the same way to prop-up and to make a profit.

      This non-person corporation cares not for all the people (large funds from retirement savings) who have invested in them. They were fooled and lied to to….

      Yes, this is not a simple solution.

  35. Kristina Rizzardi PhD says:

    Firstly, the 35S promoter is required for initiating trascription, and it is widly used becouse it enables constitutive expression of the adjacent gene. Hence, the 35S promoter sequence is NOT transcibed and does NOT produce any mRNA or protein. For the 35S promoter sequence to be transcribed into the gene VI (which is only a partial coding region meaning, no functional protein) it needs to have its own promoter. Just because there are sequence similarities between DNA regions, does not mean that a specific sequence will be transcribed into a protein.
    Secondly, if you really want to know if gene IV or a fragment of gene VI is actually transcribed in the transgene you are studying why not measure the amount of gene VI specific mRNA with q-RT PCR instead of just doing a literature study.
    Thirdly, this is the most idiotic question statement I’ve ever heard:
    ” Since the known targets of Gene VI activity (ribosomes and gene silencing) are also found in human cells, a reasonable concern is that the protein produced by Gene VI might be a human toxin. This is a question that can only be answered by future experiments.”
    Gene VI produces a protein of 62kDa, if ingested it would first be destroyed by our gastric acids and even if it managed to survive the protolytic environment of the stomach, the limit of absorption of preoteins or any molecules in the stomach and the intestine is below 3kDa, meaning that it would never enter a human cell.

    So in conclusion, GMOs are reasonably safe if you are interested in feeding the growing population of the earth without increasing the area used to produce crops. A sound alternative is to reduce the meat consumption though.

    • jrlatham says:

      Kristina
      Our proposition is that Gene VI, which as you say overlaps the 35S promoter, would not be transcribed by that promoter. Another one would have to suppply promoter functions, as happens with the virus itself. in other words it would have to land in the right place (or there would have to be one in the transgenic construct. Therefore, each event would be different not all presumably would produce Gene VI proteins.

      The feared gastric acids let through DNA, RNA, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, wheat gluten, allergens of all kinds, that then enter (often INTACT) the human bloodstream. There is no reason we know of why Gene VI should not be treated the same.

      • Gavin Venn says:

        Hi Kristina & Jonathan,

        So how do we know if there are other suitable promoters within the transgenic plant that can transcribe gene VI or a fragment of gene VI?

        And to Kristina’s 2nd point:
        measure the amount of gene VI specific mRNA with q-RT PCR

        Why didn’t Podevin and du Jardin do that? And why wouldn’t EFSA require that data for the risk assessment?

        • jrlatham says:

          Gavin
          How do we know if a promoter is likely to transcribe (produce) Gene VI? By looking for one of its consequences (an mRNA or a protein). The problem with looking for and finding an mRNA being expressed (by PCR, or any other method-much easier usually than finding a protein) is that it doesnt prove anything really useful, e.g. that a Gene VI protein is or is not ultimately produced. EFSA/Podevin could do the experiment and decide that seeing an RNA was enough to trigger a recall/ban/non-approval but that would require the ‘precautionary principle’. At this level of analysis (though really at any level) interpretation and attitude become key. ‘Science’ in the logical/rigorous/procedural/mythological and abstract way that we imagine it to be all but vanishes. A scientist can make something of the smallest risk factor or ignore the evidence staring them in the face, much as people do in their everyday lives. Lab science is really no different. The key and most valuable thing is to document your logic and provide the evidence so that others can examine it for inconsistencies. That is why EFSA’s response to our article is so disappointing and embarrassing.
          http://www.efsa.europa.eu/it/faqs/faqinsertedfragmentofviralgeneingmplants.htm

          • Gavin Venn says:

            Hi Jonathan,

            “The problem with looking for and finding an mRNA being expressed (by PCR, or any other method-much easier usually than finding a protein) is that it doesnt prove anything really useful, e.g. that a Gene VI protein is or is not ultimately produced.”

            Are you saying then that formal scientific investigation cannot at present give us a clear picture of what effects Gene IV has on these 54 transgenic plants?

          • jrlatham says:

            Hi Gavin
            It cannot ever. It is a common misconception that a ‘scientific method’ can resolve these questions. One can always question the applicability, the context, the statistics, the methodology, anything about a study, or multiple studies. This what industry has done with BPA https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661896/ They simply refuse to accept what dozens of the relevant public sector scientists think the science says. Even Seralini, who showed actual rats actually dying, is disregarded by the developers and the regulators. The Seralini study isnt proof (but should be followed up) yet industry and regulators dispute even this.

            Bottom line is more data can help but it doesnt guaranteemuch. The real issue here is that regulators (and developers) let through Gene VI without knowing it existed let alone what it did and that is the root crime they are trying to distract from.

          • jrlatham says:

            Hi Gavin
            I perhaps should clarify this a bit. Science can gather data but interpretation is up to humans. I had in mind how data from such experiments can be used to determine safety, or otherwise. But it does formally apply to the narrower question of what protein is made and how much. None of this means I don’t value data or science, quite the contrary, but their limitations should be clearly understood. Some kind of philosophical outlook (like precaution, or respect, or control) underlies all science as it is actually performed by real people and we shouldnt pretend it doesnt.

          • August Pamplona says:

            «It cannot ever. It is a common misconception that a ‘scientific method’ can resolve these questions. One can always question the applicability, the context, the statistics, the methodology, anything about a study, or multiple studies.»

            Indeed! Even as they developed the commercial strains incorporating these traits, it is clear to me that the breeders would have been completely blind to the sickliness and devastating impact on yield resulting from the effects you have so brilliantly observed must follow. There’s clearly absolutely no way that either these breeders or the ignorant farmers who have then been using these varieties incorporating these obviously harmful transgenic constructs for the last 20 years or so could have observed possible harmful effects on the plants which made up their livelihoods.

            “Even Seralini, who showed actual rats actually dying, is disregarded by the developers and the regulators.”

            This is true. Even if the Seralini study had not been complete garbage in pretty much every possible way, who is to say that it wouldn’t have shown exactly the same results if it actually been properly designed and analyzed? It seems clear to me that the precautionary principle demands a total recall of GMO’s.

            I don’t know what ever made me think otherwise?

  36. Dr. Patryce A. Smith~PhD says:

    Then after all of these discussions and revelations of the ills of these seeds and foods, what are the suggestions on what people are suppose to be doing for food? Or regarding the ‘poisoning’ of what they consume or plant if using monsanto tainted seeds where do humans look to eat?
    The science is great but what are the practical solutions for people? Over consumption of meat products certainly adds great stress to our planet also.
    Thank you for your information ..

    • Chris says:

      Dear Dr. Patryce,
      In my earlier comment, I posted a website called the called the Non-GMO Project with plenty of Non-Bt-toxin producing cereal grains that you can purchase at your local grocer. There also an abundance of other food sources that have been born out of the growing awareness of Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer and Syngenta’s attempts to corner the market on seed, destroy the subsistence farmer’s livelihood and poison the ;public with Chimerafoods.

      http://www.nongmoproject.org/

      Blessings, Chris.

    • Ken says:

      I have heard your question (containing a not-so-hidden argument) too many times, and it’s just hog-wash. ‘How do we feed the world?’ or America even? We feed it like we used to, where there’s not gigantic corporations trying to own the entire food market. We have small farmers, ranchers and growers of all manner of foods get to doing what they’ve always done best – feed America. There are not suddenly so many people to feed in the US that we have to worry about how it’s going to happen. It’s a false argument. A better question certainly is: How is Monsanto going to rule our food chain, from seed to food, without GM products? Well, that’s a false paradigm. Maybe we do eat too much meat, and maybe we do waste too much of our crops on cattle feed, (though I’d argue that Ethanol is a worse use) but it doesn’t mean we’re short on anything yet. Americans need to get used to paying what foods really cost to grow, raise & market, and stop wishing for $1 a gallon milk, and $2 steaks. We have both the capacity, and the ability to feed our nation and not need the involvement of giant mega-corporations who want to monkey with our food’s genetic makeup. Until the day that a majority of scientists can say for a fact that GM product ‘X’ cannot possibly harm anyone, I vote for organic natural foods produced as locally as possible.

      • August Pamplona says:

        The comment below DP’s was meant as a reply to your comment but I apparently clicked on the wrong ‘reply’ link.

  37. DP says:

    Thank you. I’ve never seen such insanity. This looks like a bunch of mad scientists experimenting with our food, which belongs to us, in order to increase mass profits and fame. Let the farmers have their land back, get Monsanto and this science craze out of the mix, and let us take our chances. There is plenty of land–farmers just can’t afford to farm becuase of technology and corporate manipulation.

    Please notice, our farmer’s markets are doing just fine. Without the help of lunatics who feel “we’ll need to experiment more’ is an adequate response.

    With all due respect. I know you are educated. But you also need common sense and social responsibility. I’d rather see solutions for indoor farming techniques instead of modifying the seed to live through environmental crises.

  38. August Pamplona says:

    «I have heard your question (containing a not-so-hidden argument) too many times, and it’s just hog-wash. ‘How do we feed the world?’ or America even? We feed it like we used to, where there’s not gigantic corporations trying to own the entire food market. We have small farmers, ranchers and growers of all manner of foods get to doing what they’ve always done best – feed America. There are not suddenly so many people to feed in the US that we have to worry about how it’s going to happen. It’s a false argument.»

    Your comment is presupposing that everything is fine as it is now. We might be past a tipping point of no return already, for all you know (most likely we are very, very close). Our problems will only compound if we additionally stress the system and we need to learn how to reduce our impact. The problem with environmental degradation is that the point of no return is clear only after after it has passed. We humans are no smarter in this planet as a whole than the natives of Easter Island used to be. We won’t necessarily just know when to stop (just like they didn’t –you would think someone would have said “guys, I think we need to stop what we are doing!” and that people would have listened).

    Therefore, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere in a comment held for moderation for days (for containing some links, I think), we need to use all the tools at our disposal. No single thing we have available to us can fix our problems. Refusing to use some tools out of hand is highly irresponsible and that is what the scaremongering based on nothing (which is exemplified by Latham & Wilson’s blog post here) is meant to lead us into. It’s Luddism at its worst except that instead of potentially slowing down “progress” it’ll potentially contribute to whole population scale level environmental catastrophe.

    «A better question certainly is: How is Monsanto going to rule our food chain, from seed to food, without GM products?»

    Agrochemical megacorporations will “rule our food chain” in exactly the same way they are doing it now and in exactly the same way they did it before: by providing farmers with something they want (and might need to effectively compete in the marketplace) and that they can only provide. Transgenic technologies have not changed this.

    I actually believe that if you want to shift power away from the megacorporations you will do it only by *lowering* the regulatory barrier. It will only happen by having more, as DP calls them, “mad scientists” working either from within strictly academic settings or independently (preferably working within an open source paradigm) and not beholden to the megacorporations (which are currently the only entities capable of negotiating the regulatory burden).

    «Maybe we do eat too much meat, and maybe we do waste too much of our crops on cattle feed, (though I’d argue that Ethanol is a worse use) but it doesn’t mean we’re short on anything yet.»

    Ethanol production from plant materials, as currently practiced, is an abomination. As for being short on anything, as point out above, by the time we realize that we are short it’ll probably be too late.

    If we ever come to the point were we find that we cannot meet world food demand in principle (that is, the point when we find that the arable land which could quickly be put into production still would result in true shortages) we will have come to a point of having problems the scale of which we will not have seen since the times of the Black Death.

    Even now, we find some correlations between the price of food (not true shortages, just a little ethanol production here, a drought there, etc., raising food prices a little bit and making life a little more difficult for the average person) and the emergence of civil disturbances and political instability. What, did you really think that Arab Spring stuff was *solely* about Tyranny vs. Freedom? From a systems standpoint, maybe not* (google “Bar-Yam food prices instability” –I won’t link since it may trigger automoderation).

    * Correlation may not imply causation, see disclaimers, certain restrictions may apply, employees or relatives of employees are not eligible, yada, yada, yada…..

  39. DP says:

    <>

    It’s so easy to make an error. We all do it.

    Your work may not be the appropriate target for our comments, but the scientific community, in general, has caused so many of our problems by acting irresponsibly–favoring fame, profits, or even misplaced good intentions over the good of the people, and the planet. We can’t monitor every activity, every food, every product we use, to make sure yet-another dangerous chemical or modification hits the market, . We should be able to count on the most knowledgeable, the inventors, creators, and scientists, and the manufacturers, to take that resoponsibility.

    But there is no stopping the fast-forward community, and that’s why we are ready for “science” to leave it alone. (Or leave it alone until we need it for survival.) There is no reason for GMO products at this time. We were throwing away food long before the industrial age. Lifetsyle is a big part of it, consumers are at fault for devouring so heavily. And there may be need for modified food sources in the future, but destroying the natural bounty, running over us with technology, making it impossible to retain the natural order of things, is the root of the problem.

    And if the natural order of things is extinction after major abuse, then we’ve earned it. Through our science.

    I am not anti-science. I am involved in technology and understand your goals. But allowing humanly-modified products, to hit the market, especially without our knowledge, then find out later there are dangers that the regulatory agencies are unprepared to detect, is absolutely irresponsiblle and unnecessary. (So is allowing free population of space by satellites, so my concerns are very broad.) But we unleash so many new technologies without a concern for any result but profit, and that has been our downfall.

    As I was reading this thread, and very much interested in the technical discussion, (although I found myself requiring research to understand much of it). I felt confident suggesting these types of experimental and mass-production-supporting products should be kept off the market for as long as we can do without them; and the money and time spent on some of this work should be directed at surpassing the technology that is causing the problem in the first place. To me, it’s like putting a dirty bandaid on a deep wound. What good will it be to feed a sick and disease-ridden population?

    On the other hand, someday the masses may thank you for the adapted food sources that keep us alive, but at that point, our world will lack any resemlence to the one we should be protecting–so we’ve lost the battle already. Perhaps we’re preparing for life on spaceships? Thank you for allowing a novice perspective on this, it’s just a good opportunity to ask us to all sit back and make sure this is the most responsible work you could be doing, and to make sure unnecessary altered seeds, food, etc,. are not unleashed prematurely. We don’t want to be the experiment. According to this article, it appears this is happening.

  40. Gavin Venn says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for your responses above: replying here as thread doesn’t enable a further reply.

    Your point about the human interpretation of the science is important. I’m seeing this more now in the interpretation of research on gm. One recent example is the differing views of two well known scientists on the definition of gene flow. It seems clear that science will never be a ‘done deal’ …there will always be more to understand and different ways of looking at it. You scientists are human after all :).

    That said, I think we have to define clearly what process EFSA could adopt in their risk assessment in the case of Gene VI.

    EFSA provide the following:

    Guidance for risk assessment of food and feed from genetically modified plants. EFSA Journal 2011; 9:2150.

    From this document, EFSA go into detail about comparator plants and how these form the base line for assessing the novel transgenic plant. In the case of gene VI, which as I understand it, isn’t usually found in corn for example, what are EFSA going to use as a base line? That method does not seem workable.

    The document then goes on to state:

    *In most cases the intended genetic modification will lead to the expression of new protein(s), therefore protein expression data will be the most relevant.

    * If the insert encodes new protein(s), the range and mean values for the levels of the newly produced protein(s) . In specific cases, levels of the relevant RNA(s), protein(s) or metabolite(s) should be provided.

    *Depending on the trait and scope of the application, information may also be required for
    the assessment of impacts on target and non-target organisms. In such cases, information on
    expression in various parts of the plant over the growing season is required (EFSA, 2010a). Data
    should be derived from plants grown under conditions representative of typical cultivation practices in
    Europe.

    …Now if these requirements can’t be met, then surely EFSA have to rethink their approval of the transgenic plants?

    Thoughts?

  41. PAK says:

    I went back to read the original paper and the authors make three very clear assessments:

    1. These data suggest that the P35S variants do not code for proteins that have allergenic or toxic properties.
    2. It is unlikely that overlaps between the P35S and P6 will have unintended effects.
    3. Open reading frames from adjacent plant DNA may result in production of P6 fragments, but functional analysis of potential transcripts does not indicate potential for adverse effects.

    A quick look at risk assessment reports from Australia, Britain, the US, Canada and the EU indicate that the P6 DNA was identified and taken into consideration in safety checks.

    I think Latham and Wilson have done us a disservice here. This level of less-that-truthful reporting, that hopes we won’t check for ourselves, makes Independent Science News an unreliable source of information for me.

    • jrlatham says:

      Dear PAK
      We based our article on the identification of Gene VI in CaMV 35S promoters by Podevin and du Jardin. We do not subscribe, however, to their conclusions and what that the presence of Gene VI sequence implies (points 1-3). As to your point that P6 (product of Gene VI) was “identified and taken into consideration” we have been able to find no evidence for that. If you have quotes and references from ANY regulatory jurisdiction for which that is true please post it here or email it to us. We do not think you have that evidence.

      • PAK says:

        Here are two responses from agencies:

        EFSA. The European Food Safety Authority makes the following points in its FAQs on the original paper:

        1. The data published in the paper do not represent a new discovery of a viral gene, nor do they indicate safety concerns in previously evaluated GMOs.
        2. Viral gene VI from Cauliflower Mosaic virus presents no threat to human or animal health. This virus naturally infects many plants with no recorded health effects.
        3. All GM plant applications that contain the inserted fragment of the viral gene in question have included a detailed analysis of the inserted sequence by EFSA. No safety concerns were identified in relation to the sequence of the inserted fragment of the viral gene and the potential for unintended effects.
        4. This is not an official EFSA paper. It was authored by a former member of EFSA staff and the current Vice-Chair of the GMO Panel in an independent capacity. EFSA encourages its scientific staff to contribute to the scientific literature in their specific area of expertise.

        FSANZ. The Food Safety Authority of Australia and New Zealand says the allegations of safety concerns for human consumption and normal functioning of crops are completely false. A spokesperson from FSANZ states: “Human exposure to DNA from the cauliflower mosaic virus and all its protein products through consumption of conventional foods is common and there is no evidence of any adverse health effects.”

        • jrlatham says:

          Dear PAK
          I would be interested to know whether you, as a knowledgeable person in these matters, would stand by these statements, rather than quote them?
          The issue is that those comments have been referred to here already and they do not in any way refute what we wrote in the sense that they would if they were true, but they are not. EFSA’s sequence analysis was so detailed they didnt see that their shortest promoter sequence had a third of a gene in it. Impressive!
          You also did not take up our challenge.

  42. As a health coach who tracks GMO issues and promotes healthy eating, I find it dishearting that most the mainstream don’t seem interested in better understanding the potential dangers of GMO foods. Granted we don’t have clear data yet (that will take years). All I can tell you is that I have 5 of the top 8 allergens (including corn, soy, wheat) I am allergic to for the last 9 years. So I don’t think it is a coincidence that my body is rejecting GMO foods. I was surprised when I went to a Thanksgiving dinner party and took a vote at the table as to who supported GMO foods? The majority voted YES! The reason? They felt it will keep the costs of food down. Well, my belief is you either pay at the grocery counter today to buy organic produce (less pesticides used) or pay at the doctor’s office eventually. The choice is yours!

  43. Denise says:

    The only thing I found alarming in this article is ” sometimes the genes of human and plant viruses are interchangeable, while on other occasions inserting plant viral fragments as transgenes has caused the genetically altered plant to become susceptible to an animal virus (Dasgupta et al. 2001)”, but couldn’t find the subsequent citation. I would really appreciate the citation so I can read this article. I did molecular biology for a number of years, and used CaMV promoters in my studies. It was nothing for human consumption, but I do understand how it all works. And I also know that it’s extremely difficult, even with a promoter as efficient as CaMV to have plant cells incorporate exogenous DNA (thus making GMO’s). Do you know of any studies that show the inverse, that plant viruses have altered animal cells and made them susceptible?

    • jrlatham says:

      Thanks Denise
      This citation was omitted in error. Good spotting. I will insert it. It’s a fascinating paper.
      Your subsequent question: there is an influenza virus gene that functions in plants to make them susceptible to normally non-infectious viruses.

  44. Dear all.

    The first question we should ask is: is the P6 gene or any part of it able to be transcribed from the CMV promoter inserted in the transgenic plantsw
    The second question would be: if the answer to the first question is YES, what are the expectations, in terms of risks, for human beings or for the environment?
    Please refer to http://genpeace.blogspot.com.br/2013/03/on-forgotten-gene-that-could-be-harmful.html
    for a meaningful discussion
    Kindly
    Paulo Andrade

    • August Pamplona says:

      Paulo, it should also be noted that if, as Latham & Wilson speculate, peptides might be translated retaining Gene VI product function then the consequences which Latham & Wilson describe and suggest we should greatly fear (inhibition of RNA interference, transactivation of gene expression, etc.) would result in systemic effects on the plants which would both impact the viability/productivity of the transgenic crops using this construct (this obviously is not happening –at least with the strains which actually achieve commercial release) and eliminate their substantial equivalence to unmodified crops (see http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jf400135r ). In 20 years we have not seen either.

      • You are right: these effects were never observed. I am sure the chances for these ORFs to be tranascribed are minimal, not to say translated. This makes all this discussion rather imaginative.

  45. That last comment struck me hard..
    .Reminds me of this statement: “Move along, nothing wrong here.”

    I warned of the detractors and purposeful intention of some who will confuse the issues and out right lie to reach the goal of protecting their investments!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pwzfsMnaVdI

    GMOs are made by manipulation of extremely deadly viruses & bacteria (such as E. coli) that have been engineered to be IMMUNE TO ANTIBIOTICS (Pause video at 8:08). Monsanto spends millions of dollars each year in order to “sugar” coat the facts of what GMOs actually are and more importantly, how they are made.

    This video straight-forwardly explains the scientific facts on how Monsanto manufactures their GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) by simply removing all the corporate propaganda, the “smoke & mirrors” if you will.

    Monsanto’s greed, combined with their quest to monopolize all aspects of food & seed on the planet, has knowingly allowed the proverbial Reaper free upon the world.

    GMOs are now acting much like the deadly virus and pre-cancer type cells they are made from… by infecting other organisms that were once pure and healthy.

    We as a people should demand Monsanto be held for crimes against humanity, for the atrocities they have committed and what can be reasonably seen as the start of the end to all life as we know it.

    The Bee disappearance is in perfect unison with the time line of Monsanto’s uncontrolled release of GMOs into the environment; but due to Monsanto’s influence & corruption in governments across the globe, any scientist that tries to inform the public and raise the alarm about the Bee’s & GMO’s is destroyed financially, as well as their careers’.

    Will you knowingly look the other way and FEED your family GM foods; even though you now know you could be killing or permanently harming your child/family?

    If you are OUTRAGED at Monsanto’s poisoning our food and with it our health; Please do the following actions… make a difference:

    1) Call and WRITE (pen & paper) your Legislators

    Demand:

    2) That they FULLY endorse: “H.R. 6636 GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD RIGHT TO KNOW ACT”

    3) An immediate moratorium on all GMOs and their Byproducts!

    4) FDA change their findings on GMOs as being “Generally Recognized As Safe”! This was done with ZERO testing by the FDA!

    5) Demand a full investigation into the criminal conflicts of interest as it pertains to the head personnel of Monsanto and the FDA being one in the same.

    6) Demand congress pass a “whistle blowers protection” for all professional scientists in order to end direct or indirect intimidation by Corporations, Universities, Colleges or Government. Science should never be a result of intimidation.

    Public Library of Science
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0004258

    National Center for Biotechnology Information (National Library of Medicine)
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?dbauthor%20AND%20Epidemiology%20of%20­st­aphylococcal%20resistance.

    Scientific American
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=new-drug-resistant-mrsa-in-pigs

    Journal of the American Medical Association
    http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=209197

    Science Direct:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378113507004932

    CDC (Center Disease Control):
    http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/content/11/12/contents.htm

    MRSA Wikipedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrsa

    MONSANTO LINKS
    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1cncyJ/:lGq0o5ls:aKnwNtLv/www.combat-monsanto.c

    Monsanto admits their technology doesn’t work!
    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/7rXgaG/:XkKl2Mcw:biQd+89n/www.datensatz.de/mons

    EPA Slaps Monsanto with Record Fine
    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/4b84IK/:15h+-@Edx:biQd+89n/www.greenchipstocks

    Court rules organic farmers can sue conventional, GMO farmers whose pesticides ‘trespass’ and contaminate their fields

    Learn more
    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/AjT5v4/:y

    Monsanto Gets Served on College Campus
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEK-Vgfu02E&feature=plcp

    ((( How to avoid G.M.O ))))
    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/26tpnN/:15PIQ8hds:biQd+89n/www.garden-of-eatin

    Monsanto’s Roundup is Causing DNA Damage
    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/4nirCI/:15-3hIKao:biQd+89n/www.nationofchange.o

    what you aren’t Being told about Cancer
    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2t8tQR/:1IsaEA87b:biQd+89n/www.japanesepopsongs

  46. Mass arrests of CEOs -past and present, along with all state and federal workers in the revolving door–In other countries too…WE need to do some arresting w/no bail, incarcerating w/very long sentences, and correcting w/opportunity to see the evil in themselves.based on LIES!… And these individuals need to be separated from each other, so they cannot devise anymore Evil schemes.
    .
    “The article, “Conflicts of interest at the European Food Safety Authority erode public confidence”, has been published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, part of the British Medical Journal group. The authors are Claire Robinson from Earth Open Source and GMWatch, Nina Holland and David Leloup from Corporate Europe Observatory, and Hans Muilerman from Pesticide Action Network Europe. ”

    http://gmwatch.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14686%3A-conflicts-of-interest-at-efsa-erode-public-confidence

    Conflicts of interest at EFSA erode public confidence
    Sunday, 10 March 2013 09:26

    The article, “Conflicts of interest at the European Food Safety Authority erode public confidence”, has been published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, part of the British Medical Journal group. The authors are Claire Robinson from Earth Open Source and GMWatch, Nina Holland and David Leloup from Corporate Europe Observatory, and Hans Muilerman from Pesticide Action Network Europe. (Download the PDF
    .)

    The citation is:

    Robinson, C., Holland, N., Leloup, D., and Muilerman, H. (2013). Conflicts of interest at the European Food Safety Authority erode public confidence. J Epidemiol Community Health. Published online March 8 2013: 10.1136/jech-2012-202185.
    http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2013/03/07/jech-2012-202185.short

    The article covers:

    ◦EFSA’s biased and asymmetric evaluation of the 2012 study on GM maize NK603 by Prof GE Séralini, compared with EFSA’s acceptance of industry studies that are far weaker in design
    ◦how the GM industry-funded group, the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), heavily influenced the lax assessment process used by EFSA to evaluate the safety of GM foods and crops/p>
    ◦how EFSA undermined a democratically established EU law on pesticides, enabling industry and regulators to ignore studies from the independent scientific literature on pesticide risks
    ◦how EFSA promoted an ILSI-originated concept called Threshold of Toxicological Concern, which allows untested or inadequately tested chemicals to remain on the market on the basis of assumed safe levels that have not been verified by testing
    ◦how experts with links to industry and ILSI have systematically infiltrated EFSA from the beginning of the agency’s existence and promoted industry-friendly tools and methodologies. These have been incorporated into EFSA’s risk assessment processes. Thus even if an expert with a conflict of interest is removed, their legacy remains behind them in the form of weak risk assessment processes that put public health at risk.
    ◦suggestions for reform, including: ending reliance on industry studies for safety evaluations; tightening of EFSA’s rules on conflicts of interest and establishing sanctions for those who breach them; establishing a code of scientific practice that lays down a systematic and transparent method of evaluating the entire body of scientific evidence; external peer review of EFSA opinions; broadening the range of scientific expertise on EFSA’s expert panels; and ensuring wider participation in decision-making to include social, economic and ethical factors.
    Background

    The journal editor commissioned the paper after the publication of the Corporate Europe Observatory/Earth Open Source report:

    Holland, N., Robinson, C., and Harbinson, R. (2012). Conflicts on the menu: A decade of industry influence at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Brussels, Belgium, Corporate Europe Observatory and Earth Open Source.
    http://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/publications/conflicts_on_the_menu_final_0.pdf

    Please circulate this news among your contacts.

  47. Anon says:

    EVERYBODY SPREAD THE WORD TO USE THE BUYCOTT APP!
    http://www.buycott.com/

    SCAN BARCODES TO SEE IF ANY COMPANY USES GMO PRODUCTS – THEN DON’T BUY IT!

  48. Marc says:

    Well there’s always going to be a LOT at stake when introducing untested bio-engineered materials into the ecosystem. So it makes sense to go into this with the highest, deepest, best and most big hearted motives possible. This is clearly not the case as a LOT more care would have been taken over the possible consequences to the planet and its inhabitants from the global GMO experiment so far. Depending on how all this will pan out, some people could end up being personally responsible for more death, illness and long term undermining of earth’s biosphere than we could ever imagine.. either way, at this point, many of us are responsible (in one way or another) for how our collective future turns out…

  49. Johnna says:

    I am trying to understand all of this and have been for some time. Mainstream America had got to learn what is going on with our food supply. Thank you.

  50. Eustacius says:

    I believe that the GMO issues are much more intricate than whether part of the viral genome becomes part of a pig or a tomato. What ” corporate science” and regulators do not consider is the historical symbiotic development of the animal with the plant. Whether one recognizes the other depends on a clear DNA that has a history with the other. Intentional crossing of the animal with the plant and/or synthetic compounds can only lead to confusion of the dual systems of metabolic pathways and immune systems. We should realize that the risk of this corporate experimenting is to the genome and the benefit is primarily to a few billionaires. Maybe a few thousand at the most benefit financially at the risk to billions. All that they actually know is that they are making money from the experiment.

  51. Ramela Koumrouyan says:

    Hello, I’m a student competing to detect, in a certified laboratory, Genetically modified sequences in types of corn based products in the Lebanese market, and have been searching for a while on how the presence of CaMV 35S promoter can be detected through PCR, after extracting the DNA from the organisms. Is it possible any of you have any references i can add to my research or might have knowledge of how it works? Also is gel electrophoresis after the PCR necessary?

  52. Joan Russow says:

    What surprises me is how Companies such as Monsanto were ever allowed to meddle with food security. I know in legal systems based on English Common Law, one is innocent until proven guilty. Monsanto,however, had left a legacy of Agent Orange, PCBS Dioxin etc, all of which have left a devastating environmental and health legacy. In this case Monsanto should have been prosecuted for gross negligence, and should have been prevented from introducing any other products into the ecosystem, This could only have happened because of muzzled scientists, because of revolving doors among biotech corporations regulatory agencies, and governments; because of corrupt politicians, guttless regulators, collusive academics, compromising NGOs

  53. Aloha Joan,
    I’m with you…
    But, who really runs Monsanto…
    Here is what I have discovered…
    @7 Minutes in He starts to explain what is really happening in our world…THERE WILL BE NO ECONOMIC COLLAPSE!!!!! And no wars… This is what we are been diverted from knowing by lies…
    State and Federal Government Own Monsanto, and All Other Evil Corporations… Protecting Investment at Our Expense IN MORE WAYS THEN ONE…
    Why can’t we make these evil corporations go away, and why do our laws allow their behaviors of destroying our lives; and the world’s environment? Because all these corporations are actually owned by our governments. Start at 1:36:00 See the bookkeeping, and how this works. Government retirement funds are supporting, rule the politics and operations of these corporations. Protecting these systems, not us, the United States, or our Earth.
    It really is all about money…
    Isn’t it wrong for government to invest in a corporation that runs the ballot box computers for our elections, if that government is the one who we are electing through those computers ? @1:44:50…
    @1:45:33 We see Monsanto in the books… And these books are from only one state, New York. There are 50 other states and the Federal Government to account for too…Also private funds, like mutuals are involved in this .
    New York State has 2,280,249 shares in Monsanto, worth $189,488,692…Should a government have interest in a corporation that it gives patents to, or controls the courts that decides the future of a corporation whose goal is to take over the food supplies of the world?
    Just look…What is being supported by citizens of the USA, who have no idea. This shows how the government owns the media too… we get our information from the main stream news. Explains alot!
    Who could possibly allow this to happen? Conflict of interest is hidden…Here is the whole scam.

    WOW, that was fast already removed from you tube. I found the original. Documentary and the proof of malfeasance by our governments..
    @3:35:00 explains the game that is being played with the POST OFFICE…
    @3:40:44 about Social Security.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhkWueEjewM

Comment on this Article:







Science News on the Web

Why Independent Science News?

Scientific inventions and ideas shape the future. As science becomes ever more beset by commercial and ideological pressures, there is urgent need for scientific reporting and analysis from an independent, expert, public interest perspective. With this standard, Independent Science News works to shape a future that is biodiverse, just, and healthy for everyone.
More about us...

Sign up to our mailing list

E-mail address:
Name (optional):

Related News Articles

How “Extreme Levels” of Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm

Can the Scientific Reputation of Pamela Ronald, Public Face of GMOs, Be Salvaged?

No Scientific Consensus on Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms

The Experiment Is on Us: Science of Animal Testing Thrown into Doubt

Psychiatrists plead to continue funding of genetic approaches to disease

23andMe disproves its own business model

Strangely like Fiction: Sponsored Academics Admit Falsely Claiming Dairy Hormone Safety Endorsements

Transgenic High-Lysine Corn LY038 Withdrawn After EU Raises Safety Questions

Commentaries

Edward Snowden’s Testimony to the European Parliament on NSA Spying and its Consequences

Edward Snowden Barton Gellman/Getty Images

Independent Science News has decided to reprint (1) in full the March 7th testimony of Edward Snowden to the European Parliament. Snowden’s testimony is vitally important for every citizen in every country to understand, yet it has barely been covered by the commercial or (non-commercial) global media. At stake is the …

The Health Care Doctors Forgot: Why Ordinary Food Will Be the Future of Medicine

Apple and a Pear

by T Colin Campbell, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus, Cornell University The problem Few issues have become so intensely debated and politically charged as the need to reform the health care system. This debate has resulted in the ObamaCare program (The Affordable Care Act), which aims to expand and improve …

Fakethrough! GMOs and the Capitulation of Science Journalism

Biotechnology

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Good journalism examines its sources critically, it takes nothing at face value, places its topics in a historical context, and it values above all the public interest. Such journalism is, most people agree, essential to any equitable and open system of government. These statements about journalism …

The Founding Fables of Industrialised Agriculture

Farming in Italy

by Colin Tudge Governments these days are not content with agriculture that merely provides good food. In line with the dogma of neoliberalism they want it to contribute as much wealth as any other industry towards the grand goal of “economic growth”. High tech offers to reconcile the two ambitions …

More Commentaries...

Reviews

Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA

Biology as Ideology

Author: by Richard Lewontin ISBN: 0140232192 Publisher: Penguin books (1991) Biologists know that complex traits are typically associated with genetic variation between individuals. Nevertheless, if we hear on the news that obesity, antisocial behaviour or some other disorder has a strong genetic component, we are likely to attach special significance …

The Unsettling of America

The Unsettling of America

Author: Wendell Berry ISBN: 0871568772 Publisher: Sierra Club books (1977) In 2002, peasant associations from all over Asia organised an international scientific conference. The motivation for the conference was the fact that peasants and their leaders had no dialogue with agricultural scientists, either from their own countries or with those …

More Reviews...