1.Monsanto's GM confidence trick - GM Watch
2.On the uptake of healthier GM foods - New Scientist
3.Will low-fat foods sway biotech sceptics? - New Scientist
1.Monsanto's GM confidence trick
Is Monsanto's pulling a GM confidence trick with its supposedly healthier low linolenic acid soya beans? It certainly looks like it!
According to an article in the current edition of New Scientist magazine "the first GM products claiming to have direct benefits for consumers have arrived... Monsanto says that the new soybeans will make processed foods and snacks healthier. When added to processed foods, oil from the beans doesn't form trans-fatty acids, saturated fats..."
Sue Davies, chief policy adviser at the GM-sceptical Consumer Association, is quoted as saying, "It's positive that they're starting to look at consumer benefits." And in an editorial New Scientist opines, "Finally, GM crop growers are offering sceptical consumers a real reason to buy - low fat foods... it is a major - and pleasant - surprise to find that the agribiotech company Monsanto has created a crop specifically to appeal to health-conscious westerners... the first commercial GM crop designed for well-heeled consumers." The editorial asks, "Could it reverse anti-GM feelings in Europe?"
That's doubtless what this "GM crop" is designed to do but it's nothing short of a confidence trick. The low linolenic acid trait in the soybeans that Monsanto wants to market is actually... non-GM!!
As much was admitted in a recent REUTERS article about why Monsanto wouldn't be pursuing GM wheat but would be pursuing low linolenic acid soya instead. That article clearly says, the "company [Monsanto] instead would plow its resources into a *conventionally bred* variety of soybeans that will produce a cooking oil with a lower level of cholesterol-producing trans fatty acids." (emphasis added) The article goes on to quote Monsanto's Executive Vice President Jerry Steiner, "We saw what's going on with food and trans fats, and we saw that resource we are putting in wheat is not nearly as valuable as putting it into the food and oil side."
So, if Monsanto has a valuable non-GM low linolenic acid soyabean how on earth is it being marketed as the first of the company's GM crops with consumer benefits? The answer seems to be that Monsanto has deliberately turned it into a GM crop. The company has added a GM trait that has absolutely nothing to do with consumer benefits!
Monsanto is said to be making the conventionally bred low linolenic acid soyabean available only in Roundup Ready soybean varieties, genetically engineered to resist the company's Roundup herbicide. In other words, if you want to grow the healthier-oil soybeans, you *have to* use the GM variety, ie Monsanto is deliberately only making the non-GM trait available to famers and consumers in a GM crop.
Such a sleight of hand by the company raises interesting questions about Monsanto's oft repeated mantra of "choice". Whenever GM moratoriums or bans are threatened by governments, food companies or supermarkets, up jumps Monsanto and its supporters to protest that this would deny farmers and consumers choice. But if Monsanto is going to market this non-GM trait only in a GM plant, then it is deliberately denying choice to farmers and consumers.
And if Monsanto is claiming - as seems to be the case from the articles in New Scientist - the non-GM trait as a GM success story, then it is perpetrating a fraud. Because the fact that the healthier-oil soybean was generated without resorting to genetic engineering is, in reality, yet another example of why we do not need the risks involved in this technology.
Finally, there have also been reports that Iowa State University has conventionally produced an even lower linolenic acid variety that would be better than the Monsanto one.
If true, it would be interesting to know if the better variety is going to be available (given that Monsanto and the other big companies now own so many seed companies), and if not, why not?
2.Editorial: On the uptake of healthier GM foods
New Scientist, issue 2491, 19 March 2005
Finally, GM crop growers are offering sceptical consumers a real reason to buy - low fat foods. Could it reverse anti-GM feelings in Europe?
ONE of the biggest hurdles in selling genetically modified crops to sceptical consumers, especially in Europe, has been that there was nothing in it for them. All the traits commercialised so far, such as herbicide resistance, benefit farmers. So it is a major - and pleasant - surprise to find that the agribiotech company Monsanto has created a crop specifically to appeal to health-conscious westerners. This is not food for poor people, like rice rich in vitamin A or potatoes packed with protein, but the first commercial GM crop designed for well-heeled consumers.
Monsanto's new variety of soya produces unusually low levels of linolenic acid. When used in processed food, it should reduce the amount of saturated fat in the product, the company says (see "Will low-fat foods sway biotech sceptics?"). And this is just the start. Monsanto has plans for a range of healthier crops, including soya that ...
3.Will low-fat foods sway biotech sceptics?
New Scientist, issue 2491, 19 March 2005
A decade after genetically modified crops went on sale, the first GM products claiming to have direct benefits for consumers have arrived
A DECADE after genetically modified crops went on sale, the first GM products claiming to have direct benefits for consumers have arrived. The products will be welcomed in the US, but may struggle to dent European opposition to GM.
Monsanto, the biotech crop giant based in St Louis, Missouri, unveiled plans for its Vistive range of GM soybeans on Tuesday in London. It says Vistive soya is leading a second generation of GM crops that benefit consumers and not just farmers. "It's positive that they're starting to look at consumer benefits," says Sue Davies, chief policy adviser at the London-based consumer association, Which? "But because of the way the first generation were introduced, European consumers will still be very sceptical."
Monsanto says that the new soybeans will make processed foods and snacks healthier. When added to processed foods, oil from the beans doesn't form trans-fatty acids, saturated fats
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