Widespread opposition to GM feed (25/8/2007)

1.Widespread opposition to GM feed
2.Why our European neighbours are saying no to GM feeds

NOTE: see also 'Evidence that GM feed is harmful'


1.Widespread opposition to GM feed

EXTRACT: Finns take a generally negative view of meat raised with the help of genetically modified feed.

According to a survey commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat, half of the population completely disapprove of GM fed, and more than 90 per cent feel that meat raised with such feed should have a label that informs the consumer of its use. (Widespread opposition to genetically-modified crops)

2.Why our European neighbours are saying no to GM feeds
The Irish Farmers Journal, 25 August 2007 (published 23 August)

Letter to the Editor from Cornelius Traas Chairman, Apple Growers Committee Irish Farmers Association

Dear Sir,

Over the past few weeks, I note that there is much negative comment in the Farmers Journal on the potential implications of a restriction on the availability of GM feeds, for livestock producers especially.

While I don't know how accurate these reports may be, I do feel that it may be worth pointing out to readers why the eventual consumers of these products in Europe, who after all are our customers, do not want to purchase GM foods or increasingly, livestock fed on foods containing GM ingredients.

While a complete list of the concerns of consumers would be too long for a letter, or even for a substantial article, I would appreciate the space to give five examples of what has very many consumers concerned, and in my own opinion, rightly so.

If I may first point out what a GM plant is. It is a plant whose DNA (Genetic information) has been altered, normally by the addition of a gene or genes that originate in another plant, or that originate in animals or bacteria, or genes that are 'made' in the laboratory.

Obviously, it is a fact that GM plants created using genes from animals or bacteria (or genes made in a laboratory) could not be created by conventional plant breeders or nature, so this breeding technology is not like anything that has been used heretofore.

The first example of a concern with GM plants is the presence of antibiotic resistance marker genes (Arms) in the cells of some GM plants. The presence of these genes in plants means that the crop contains genes that code for resistance to antibiotics.

Risk factor

The risk for humans or animals is that the bacteria, naturally present in our guts, could incorporate this DNA into their own DNA, creating bacteria in our guts that are anti- biotic-resistant. That such incorporation of foreign genes is possible was demonstrated by a study conducted by the British Food Stan- dards Agency, where 19 volunteers were fed a single meal of a burger and shake containing GM soya.

Seven of the volunteers had incomplete digestive tracts, and in three of these, it was found that bacteria in their guts had taken up genes from the soya.

The implication of this is that any gene in any GM food could be taken up by any bacteria (good or bad) in the gut of a human (or plausibly a farm animal), and, if that gene is advantageous to the bacteria, then that bacteria will replace others that are present. The implications of this are, as of yet, unknown, but could quite conceivably be very negative. The second example is to do with allergens.

In one case, soybeans were modified by the addition of a protein from Brazil nut, which resulted in the soya containing extra methionine (a desirable trait). However, the modified soybean produced immunological reactions in people usually allergic to Brazil nut. (The trial was stopped and the soybeans destroyed). Another example like this occurred when a pasture-crop field pea was developed, by taking genes from the closely related bean.

Not expected

The result was not as expected however, as the peas containing the gene caused an allergic reaction in mice, even though the beans, in which the gene was naturally present, did not. Now, neither of these two examples led to any problems, as the crops were never released.

However, they highlight a problem, identified by the immunologist who tested the pea who noted that the episode illustrated the need for each new GM food to be carefully evaluated for potential health effects.

While this might seem like a logical thing to do, under the current regulatory framework due to the concept of substantial equivalence there is no legal obligation for such evaluations. This leads to the third reason for consumer concern, and that is this very concept of substantial equivalence. Basically this concept says that genetically modified plants do not need to be tested for safety before they are released, as they are considered substantially equivalent (more or less the same as) plants, produced by conventional breeding.

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