Modified maize out of sequence

This is a google translation from the French which I’ve not the time to put into shape. It’s close enough for understanding.

The story might only be anecdotal but, after the Volkswagen case, it brings to the fore again the limits of European procedures for assessing technological risks.

Several transgenic maize marketed by the agrochimiste Swiss Syngenta and authorized for import into Europe for several years for food and feed, are carriers of genetic changes that do not match those provided by the manufacturer to the European authorities, when authorization process.

No health risks have been identified for the time being due to these errors but the case sheds light on the serious concern of European inspections of GMOs.

On July 20, the company based in Basel (Switzerland) addressed a letter to the European Commission, bringing to his attention “an update of the genetic sequences of MIR604 events and GA21”. “This update continues the letter, describes differences with the originally communicated sequences “to the European authorities, in particular the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), responsible for the risk assessment before marketing authorization.

“No implications for human or animal health”

The biotech firm Syngenta adds that the differences noted between the genetic changes actually made ​​to the plants and that provided the European authorities “have no implications for human and animal health or the assessment already conducted environmental risk”, according to documents sent to the world through the secure server, anonymous “reliable source”.

MIR604 induced genetic modification, plant for the carrier of this trait, the ability to produce a toxin fighting against rootworm, a major corn pests; regarding the GA21, it gives the plant tolerance to glyphosate – the herbicide used in the world – and thus facilitates its use.

In total, these two events, which do not correspond to those evaluated by health authorities, are present, alone or “stacked” with other changes in six maize authorized for import into Europe between 2008 and 2011.

Read also: GMOs banned by most European countries

“The data confirm differences between the genetic sequences of the products tested against those provided in the original registration dossiers”, do we confirmed in Brussels. However, it adds substance to the Commission, the errors are not significant enough to render obsolete the testing validated at the time of authorization.

This means that the technical instruments available to Member States to detect and control these plants are always effective, despite the errors found.

Entering Brussels by early August, EFSA examined the genetic sequences actually inserted. On October 8, the agency based in Parma (Italy) delivered its opinion on the MIR604 “real”, arguing that the error of the agrochimiste does not change the evaluation of previously conducted risk. In fact, the error relates only to a single base pair (only one “letter”) a non-coding region of the inserted sequence. The case seems more difficult to GA21. “The panel EFSA GMO only conclude the end of October 2015, as additional data were requested from Syngenta “, says one to the Commission.

Evaluated on the manufacturer’s database

For benign and can be both errors of agrochimiste, they led that transgenic plants are marketed, for several years, without genetic modifications are identical to those of the registration dossiers provided by the manufacturer. “This is due to the way risk is assessed, based largely on data provided by the industry itself “, says Christophe Noisette, Chargé de Mission in Inf’OGM a critical watch on Biotechnology Association.

That is not all. In early October, Syngenta has abandoned its authorization requests cultivation of two genetically modified corn, a carrier of the MIR604 event, one of MIR604, GA21 and Bt11. In a terse letter to the Commission dated 7 October, the company withdrew its two requests without explanation. No link, said Syngenta, with newly discovered errors. “The decision to withdraw was made ​​in the re-evaluation of the commercial potential of these products in Europe”, said a spokesman for the Swiss company.

The case was filed in 2010. But not only asked EFSA in August, further information Syngenta to continue examining the case, but a majority of EU Member States have in addition made ​​to know that they would not allow the cultivation of transgenic plants in their territories. The Swiss agrochimiste ended up throwing in the towel.

“You have perhaps seen as this decision as the beginning of the industrial disinvestment of transgenesis to turn to other genetic engineering techniques, analysis Christophe Noisette. Mutagenesis for example, provides plants with like properties, such as tolerance to herbicides, which are not subject to the same legal regime. “These plants, already widely cultivated in French territory, are often described as” hidden GMO “by opponents of biotechnology. The European Commission consults Member States to define their status by the end of the year.
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OK, a key question:

[Is] grafting tomatoes the same as genetic modification, since GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are often built for increased disease resistance, something our tomatoes boast as well. How is grafting different from genetic modification?

One side says they are two different things:

Grafting is the process of growing two individual plants then fusing them together, once they reach seedling stage. One of the plants (the root stock) is strong and vigorous, bred for disease resistance and increased growth.

It is a man-made manipulation, it’s true, but it’s no more invasive or intrusive than traditional plant breeding. It is almost universally used in fruit trees and olive trees.

GMO technology is done in a high-tech laboratory, where scientists splice actual genes from certain organisms and transfer them to another organism (transmitted through viruses, usually). This is plant manipulation on the molecular level, usually transferring just one gene. Big agricultural companies like Monsanto use GMO technology to infer advantages into their plants.

The two biggest advantages currently are resistance to borer insects and to the chemical pesticide Round-up (which, coincidentally Monsanto makes also). The transferred genes are taken from other plants and, occasionally, animals.

This is fairly new technology and a lot is still unknown about it. Many people are fearful of it, partly because the risks are unknown for the agricultural landscape and because we don’t know how these spliced genes behave in the human body, once consumed.

The other side – Monsanto etc., say differently:

For centuries, farmers have been genetically modifying their plants without even knowing it. That’s the message from German scientists who found that grafting, a common technique used to fuse parts of two plants together, causes the two halves to swap genes with each other.

Grafting can involve fusing the stem of one plant (the scion) to the roots of another (the stock), or a dormant bud to another stem. There are many reasons for this – sometimes it’s the most cost-effective way of cultivating the scion, sometimes the stock has properties that the scion lacks including hardiness or sturdiness. The vessels of the two halves eventually merge but people have long believed that they keep their genetic material to themselves. It turns out they were wrong.

I don’t know where this is in the political spectrum – left, right, sane, loony – but looking at the issue itself, it seems the supporters of GOM are being a tad disingenuous, whilst the fear of GOM might not at this point be justified but as they say in the classics – once you move it to test tubes in a lab, “what could possibly go wrong”?

They’re disingenuous in that grafting two plants onto one another is sharing the molecules of two plants only of a similar family of plants. GOM can use anything, including animals.  I’m not claiming this produces Frankensteins but I am saying that the two techniques are not the same.

To me, the issue is trust – trusting the bona fides of conglomerates such as Monsanto who’ve had much written on their antics in Africa.  There is also the uncontestable point that yes, you can GM a plant’s blueprint for a desired outcome such as resistance to pests and disease but as has long been suspected about the vaccines in Northern Africa, you can also include other things as well.

Perhaps this failure of the original specification to agree with the current spec is just an unfortunate error, an oversight such as the failure of security on 911 morning or maybe it was more like that civil servant leaving the NHS disks on the bus.  Interesting things emerge.

I’d like to make a distinction between blind distrust, e.g. my opposition to maglev and learned distrust such that we see in the dealings at Westminster and of bodies such as the IPCC.

For me, the EU is maybe right this time in deeply distrusting Monsanto and Syngenta, particularly when there are anomalies.

2 comments for “Modified maize out of sequence

  1. Lord T
    October 15, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    As you say they are trying to confuse the issue.

    Grafting and radiation are natures way of adapting a species that fits in with Darwinism. We don’t always end up with something viable and when we do the species is improved.

    That isn’t the same as inserting a specific DNA sequence into a specific location in a species that changes it. They can make changes to anything including if it is cancerous or anything.

    Of course nothing could possibly go wrong.

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