GMO Technology Can Help Prevent Starvation

First World Activists Dictate to Third World

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Needed GMO technology to help citizens in Third World countries is being thwarted by activist groups in First World countries who are anti-GMO, said Alison Van Eenennaam, a UCANR Cooperative Extension Specialist focused on Animal Genomics at UC Davis.

“If the African people choose to use this to develop better bananas, they should have the right to use that and not be dictated to by activist groups in the First World promoting fear around this technology,” she said.

GMO technology could greatly benefit those in the developing world, especially those who struggle with starvation on a daily basis.

“Most people have never seen starvation. People take food for granted, and when you see people that have problems in their agricultural production systems that are actually affecting the food security, you have to address those problems, whether they be drought or disease problems,” Van Eenennaam explained.

“And I’m all for using whatever technology that works best to address a problem. Maybe it’s conventional breeding or maybe its GMO, or gene editing. I don’t really care. I just want to use the best tool that is available. But it doesn’t make sense to take some tools off the table for no reason, and I think that’s what’s happening around the debate of genetic engineering,” she said.

And the use of GMO crops in a third world country has dramatically decreased the use of pesticides, which should be celebrated by activists.

“About 90 percent of the farmers growing GMO crops are on small acreage producers in the developing world, that are growing insect-protected Bt cotton. And the dramatic decrease of insecticide use resulting from that—well environmentalist should be singing this from the rooftops,” Van Eenennaam said.

“It’s incomprehensible to me that if your real intent is to decrease pesticide use in agriculture, to not appreciate what those Bt crops have done for global insecticide use is to be willfully ignorant of what the data shows,” Van Eenennaam said. “It’s just a win-win for everyone.”

USDA Approves Apples Genetically Engineered to Resist Browning

Source: Food Safety News 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to approve new types of apples that have been genetically engineered not to brown as quickly after being cut.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., the company that developed the Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden varieties is currently engaging in a voluntary food safety assessment consultation with the Food and Drug Administration regarding the varieties.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said it made the decision to deregulate the apples and allow them to be commercially planted after assessments showed that “the GE apples are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agriculture and other plants in the United States” and that “deregulation is not likely to have a significant impact on the human environment.”

Over time, Arctic apples will age, turn brown and rot like any other fruit, but they’ve been genetically engineered to produce less of the substance that causes browning. When the apples are sliced or bruised, the fruit’s flesh retains its original color longer instead of turning brown.

Consumer groups opposed to genetically modified foods have indicated their disapproval of USDA’s decision.

“The USDA has neglected to look at the full range of risks from these apples,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “In its environmental assessment, the USDA glossed over the possibility of unintentional effects associated with the technology used to engineer these apples, potential economic impacts on the U.S. and international apple market, effects of potential contamination for non-GMO and organic apple growers and the impact of the non-browning gene silencing which also can weaken plant defenses and plant health.”

“Pre-sliced apples are a frequently recalled food product,” noted the Center for Food Safety. “Once the whole fruit is sliced, it has an increased risk of exposure to pathogens. Since browning is a sign that apples are no longer fresh, ‘masking’ this natural signal could lead people to consume contaminated apples.”

APHIS said that of the many comments it received on its draft analyses of Arctic apples, some addressed safety concerns and how Arctic apple production might impact exports of U.S. apples abroad. The agency pointed out that under its regulations and the Plant Protection Act, it can’t base its final decision on these factors, but only on the analysis of plant pest risk to agriculture or other plants in the U.S.

If there is enough consumer demand for Arctic apples, it would be several years before producers could grow the fruit. If the apples turn up in grocery stores, they’ll be recognizable by their name, but there are concerns that if the fruit is cut up and used in other foods, consumers won’t necessarily know that the apples were genetically engineered.

The Environmental Working Groups said that the approval of Arctic apples “underscores the need for a transparent and consistent national labeling standard.”

USDA’s announcement came the day after Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) reintroduced legislation to label genetically engineered food.