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Securing the safety of genetic modification

Most genetically modified (GM) crops are based on moving DNA from one organism to another to introduce a new protein. Now a growing number of genetically modified crops are based on intentionally changing…

It makes sense to exercise caution when we’re fiddling with genes in food. Food Ethics Council

Most genetically modified (GM) crops are based on moving DNA from one organism to another to introduce a new protein. Now a growing number of genetically modified crops are based on intentionally changing RNA. However this new technology may prove to be risky business.

RNA world

RNA or ribonucleic acid is the neglected stepsister of DNA, but it is quickly becoming the Cinderella of biotechnology.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the material basis of the genome of most organisms, it’s what encodes our genes. RNA is the second stage of a process that produces proteins in cells. It’s the messenger and is normally single-stranded. However, when it’s double-stranded, RNA is sometimes also a molecule that can turn genes on off.

The RNA molecules used in genetic modification are known as double-stranded RNAs. These RNA molecules are already being explored for a number of uses.

A number of companies are planning to engineer plants with double-stranded RNAs to kill pests. Some are also planning to make sprays that carry RNA into the cells of weeds.

Double-stranded RNA is being tested as a feed supplement to make bees resistant to viruses, or to kill bee mites.

And GM plants with nutritional characteristics altered through the introduction of novel double-stranded RNAs are already being grown for the human food supply.

RNA: the “new DNA” of genetic modification

Most traits in existing commercial genetically modified organisms are due to the introduction of one or more proteins by modifying DNA. But new modifications are based on the double-stranded RNA molecules that regulate production of proteins.

Double-stranded RNAs can “silence” genes. For example, a small double-stranded RNA molecule has been developed based on a fragment of the dvsnf7 gene. This can kill western corn rootworms when the molecule is added to their food, or when it is expressed (by GM) in the corn plants which the worms eat.

Although the mechanisms for this are still being described, there are already a number of GM crops based on this principle. It is also probable that all commercial GM crops produce unintended regulatory RNA molecules that have not been tested as part of the routine risk assessment.

Worse, one double-stranded RNA can produce unintended secondary RNA molecules that have different sequences and therefore potentially different targets. These can arise in the modified plant or in the cells of those who eat the modified plant.

Not just food: double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) is already used in other consumer products. http://www.larifans.lv/en/

We are concerned that what happens to pest insects and nematodes that eat these RNA molecules can also happen to other insects, wildlife and people. An increase or decrease in cell proteins can have important effects on our health. These effects vary depending on the protein, and the cells, organs or tissues to which the double-stranded RNA is delivered.

Small changes in the DNA sequence can change the spectrum and number of potentially affected genes. That is why in our view a risk assessment needs to consider each novel RNA created specifically, whether deliberately or inadvertently.

Risk assessment

The risks of double-stranded RNA have not been systematically evaluated by any regulatory agency we know of, and there are no standard safety testing procedures.

In a recent issue of Environment International we published peer-reviewed research looking at risk assessments done by three different regulators affecting three countries. In all cases the regulators didn’t assess the risk of new double-stranded RNA molecules.

In Australia and New Zealand, a genetically modified plant is subject to an environmental risk assessment if it is to be used in a field trial or released for cultivation. A food safety assessment if it is to be used in food or animal feed.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand assesses GM plants that are safe for use as food. Seven plants approved by Food Standards have been deliberately modified to produce double-stranded RNAs.

Various GM wheat varieties have been assessed for field trial by the Australian Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. These use the same double-stranded RNA technology. Neither regulator, to our knowledge, has assessed a GM plant for unintentionally created double-stranded RNAs.

Exposure incorrectly assessed

Double-stranded RNA produced in plants can be taken up by people through food, as shown in studies last year. Insects also take up RNA through food, which is why manufacturers are patenting dietary-based insecticides.

In another study a naturally produced double-stranded RNA was found to alter gene expression in mouse livers. Double stranded RNA could also alter gene expression in human tissue culture cells.

Until now regulators have rejected the possibility that people can be exposed to double-stranded RNA through food. There has therefore been no research into the safety of these molecules. In short, regulators avoid assessing potential safety issues by saying there were no risks to start with.

Were the regulators right but for the wrong reasons?

Various commentators have argued since RNA is already in the food we eat, it must be safe. Without evidence this reasoning is far from reassuring.

Only a small number of plants have been bred with intended changes to double-stranded RNA. And most of these have been withdrawn from sale, are not grown on commercial scales, or are in boutique crops such as Hawaiian papaya.

The amount of these RNAs in food now is unknown but is probably very small. Thus the argument of safety from existing experience is, at best, speculative. And it fails to account for unintended double-stranded RNAs.

If there are no experiments, we won’t know if double-stranded RNAs have an adverse impact or no impact. While we test food to some extent, there are no studies of other important sources of exposure such as inhalation. And critically, these studies are not on humans: even small differences between our genomes and those of the animals used in tests might have large consequences.

If we are to safely produce products that might contain novel double-stranded RNA molecules, there needs to be routine bioinformatics and transcriptomic testing.

The power of RNA should be used for the betterment of all. On the way, it should not become the snake oil of the 21st Century or the cause of avoidable catastrophes.

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  1. Richard Widows

    logged in via Twitter

    Thank you Jack, Judy and Sarah for highlighting the risks associated with (little understood) RNA technology that continue to be ignored by the authorities responsible for protecting our health. This is complex stuff and easy for people to shrug off, but, as you point out, the risks are potentially very serious.

    Without appropriate testing mechanisms we are essentially putting our faith in companies like Monsanto, who continue to fight appropriate testing measures. Think about that for a second people.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Richard Widows

      Funny isn't it how people like the Greens get abused for being unscientific when they mainly express concerns about corporate control of food and seed systems and, more frighteningly, the kind of 'self regulation' (as good an oxymoron as you're ever likely to encounter) that tends to go with excessive corporate freedom.

      Hysteria and counter-hysteria aside, there ARE good reasons to be cautious about new technologies of this kind and, particularly, reasons to be very cautious about who is guarding the guards.

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  2. David Tribe

    Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

    in a recent report from a Chinese lab (Zhang et al), a small RNA from rice is described as affecting enzymes in the liver after rice fed to mice. It seems as if RNA molecules from many foods, GM or non-GM, may be considered in this type of risk assessment. In the case examined by Zhang et al, the rice was not GM, and the RNA implicated was a common plant "micro" RNA.

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    1. Jack Heinemann

      Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at University of Canterbury

      In reply to David Tribe

      That paper was important David for demonstrating that dsRNAs can survive cooking and digestion and travel through blood to organs and alter the expression of genes in mammals. The possibility that this could be so was long denied without evidence by regulators, and dismissed as well by you (http://academicsreview.org/reviewed-content/genetic-roulette/section-2/2-8-novel-rna/).
      Rice has been consumed for thousands of years and it and its dsRNAs have a history of safe use. This is not evidence that all new dsRNAs will be safe. In fact, since dsRNAs are being designed to be lethal food supplements for some animals makes it clear that dsRNA is not safe by association but in need of being shown to be safe by testing.
      However, I do agree that other sources of food ingredients that have not been traditionally part of food may also benefit from such testing.

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  3. Tyson Adams

    Scientist and author

    Um, this article seems to be one great big slippery slope argument https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/slippery-slope

    I'd also like to point out that all breeding techniques manipulate the DNA and RNA, especially those techniques that use mutagens. Often breeding is all about forcing the RNA or DNA to switch genes or inscriptions on or off.

    I'd also like to point out that products that aren't past the early stages of development can't be assumed to be unsafe, when the testing is still to be done (hence slippery slope argument). I'd also like a comparison of how many "traditional" breeding techniques are tested for the same issues espoused in this article.

    So, this entire article is trying to say that there is something unique to GM at play here, which is just not the case. This smacks of bias or a lack of understanding of breeding. I'm sure David Tribe or Richard Roush can comment further on this, as they actually know about this topic.

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    1. MADGE Australia Inc

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      The big 'slippery slope' is the fallacies in your argument. I think that testing for the ds rna that the process of GM has created is a very good idea. Sounds like science. Alternatively not checking what has been created and assuming that GM has created nothing dangerous, despite the fact that some ds rna is being created to kill pests sounds like wilful blindness. If this article stats GM food on the 'slippery slope' of being properly tested then I think we should all cheer.

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    2. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to MADGE Australia Inc

      You clearly don't understand what the slippery slope fallacy is, as I didn't use it. You also don't seem to understand what I have written, in that you have created a strawman suggesting that I am against testing, which I am in favour of.

      Your clear lack of basic comprehension skills mean that your comments are of no value to this conversation.

      Now, my actual argument was that false cause was being drawn, as conventional breeding techniques are not being tested for the same identified RNA impacts. Why is it that it is so important to only test in GM? Why not test in all breeding? Why the naturalistic fallacy? Why do anti-GM campaigners fail to compare apples with apples, refusing to understand GM in the context of all breeding methods? I think all of agriculture will cheer when idealists like yourself, MADGE, start supporting agricultural research, rather than blocking it with your irrational anti-science stance.

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    3. Chris Kelly

      Horticulture Research Technician

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Just recently MADGE reposted on their facebook page what was touted as a report comparing the nutritional value of GM corn with conventionally grown corn. Of course hilarity ensued when it was clear that the "report" was a poorly fabricated soil analysis! Par for the course for MADGE.

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    4. Adrian Gibbs

      Retired

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      This pro-dogma put-down helps no-one, nor is it comforting to learn that David Tribe and Rich Roush "actually know about this topic" - they certainly write/speak/promote their views on this range of topics, but I suspect that where there has been little or no testing then they "know" no more than anyone else. It is of course true all attempts to produce change in organisms for human purposes, may produce unexpected changes, but many believe that the more 'unnatural' the method used to produce the change, the more likely that the changes cannot be predicted, and that is a perfectly logical view. The pro-GM lobby certainly seems to prefer putting-down doubters verbally rather than promoting proper independent scientific testing of products, and the full labeling of all products, new-fangled or old-fashioned. Only in this way can untoward outcomes be traced back. That is how the link between cancer and smoking was found - people knew if they have ever smoked.

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    5. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Adrian Gibbs

      But we can't assume that more "un-natural" methods (which are actually natural methods adopted by science) produce more unexpected changes. There is neither evidence for that, nor any systems by which that is likely to occur. E.g. using a mutagen to alter plant DNA is not targeted and could cause a raft of changes: this is used in conventional breeding. Yet targeted gene transfer of known effects that will subsequently be tested for, are somehow more likely to cause changes? This defies logic…

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    6. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      Yes, sadly this is all too common. Ideologues are not based on rationality nor science. Soil science, plant science, genetic science..... Science!

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    7. mark mc dougall

      educator

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      Chris Kelly, if you're meaning this report - http://naturalsociety.com/analysis-monsanto-gm-corn-nutritionally-dead-toxic/ - just consider as Huber has advised, GM corn does not take up balanced mineral nutrients in proportion with carbohydrates. Add that glyphosate build up in the soil also exacurbates this problem and we should say GM corn is NOT SUBSTANTIALLY EQUIVALENT though they have been fraudulently approved as such for consumption. You want to say its a soil analysis study, no one can get GM corn to take up equivalent minerals, and yes Rounded up soil, if not immediately, soon gets to look depleted thanks to glyphosate buildup .... great science! heaven help us.

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    8. Karl Haro von Mogel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      "I'd also like a comparison of how many "traditional" breeding techniques are tested for the same issues espoused in this article."

      The answer to that question is zero. Breeding can introduce novel dsRNA constructs into cells, which includes dsRNAs that people have never before consumed. When breeding with wild relatives, there are wide swaths of genes bred into cultivated varieties that are completely unknown. Some will be overlapping antisense genes which if expressed in the same tissues will…

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    9. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to mark mc dougall

      Mark, citing anything Huber has to say is just opening yourself up to ridicule for not checking Huber's claims against actual science. He really has no idea of what he is talking about. http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/2011/02/pudue-extension-comments-on-recent.html

      Besides the fact that GM doesn't alter root transporters, nor photosynthesis rates relative to nutrient transport, the claims are nonsensical.

      Now, your statements about glyphosate are just plain false. Glyphosate is broken down in…

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    10. Adrian Gibbs

      Retired

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      The point I was trying to make is that ALL attempts by humanity to make changes may have unintended consequences. Those consequences can only be detected by testing. This is either done deliberately in designed tests, or by 'inadvertent testing' when products are used by the public. The 'results' of inadvertent testing only become known if everything is fully labelled. Thus the efforts made by the pro-GM companies, supported by the pro-GM lobby, to avoid labeling has rightly resulted in public…

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    11. Jack Heinemann

      Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at University of Canterbury

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Rick Roush has indicated an openness to evaluating GM crops based on the production of novel dsRNAs and David Tribe has agreed with us that tools to do so are available: “Any GM crop can be scrutinised using modern bioinformatics methods to ensure any issues about ds RNA or RNA silencing are addressed and avoided in the early stages of crop development.” So I see no conflict on this point between those scientists and we authors.

      What we point out is that there is no evidence that any testing…

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    12. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      "But we can't assume that more "un-natural" methods (which are actually natural methods adopted by science) produce more unexpected changes."

      Since when did 'natural' mutation plant breeding involve the transfer or interchange of genes across Kingdoms as a matter of course? (Presuming you know your taxonomy.)

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    13. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      You mean horizontal and transformation gene transfer? You mean the natural basis that geneticists have adopted? For example: http://www.pnas.org/content/108/35/14643.full

      Or are you suggesting that dunking a plant in a mutagen (possibly causing 'cancer') and then having random things happen, is "natural". Because I don't think you understand just what plants can do. Where do you think we get many of our poisons from?

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    14. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Adrian Gibbs

      No, you are confounding two separate issues.

      Firstly, you are saying test, which I fully support. I would like to see more testing, especially of non-GM foods/crops.

      But then you move to the claim that GM technology is a monopoly and that testing is only done in house. This is false, in many instances. But that is also beside the point, as the science shows that, thus far, GM products have been safe.

      Now, as for newer and better testing. Sure. Go ahead. But your claim about scientists employed in offices and not labs is ridiculous. There is always both. In fact, there is usually some lowly paid technician that gets to handle all the nasty chemicals required to do the tests so that the chief of the lab has time to write up the paper.

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    15. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Jack Heinemann

      I accept that. Your reply does address some of my concerns with the article's phrasing.

      My issue is more with the article's phrasing that suggests the logical fallacy of the slippery slope, especially as the testing is not being proposed for conventional breeding.

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    16. MADGE Australia Inc

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Hi Tyson, You are following the usual pro-GM routine - attacking people that question and want research. Then throw in a few references to rhetorical devices "slippery slope" "straw man" etc. Then muddle the science being discussed with irrelevant references ie why not test everything not just GM?

      GM crops have been grown since the 1990's and we do not have to argue in the abstract to see their agronomic and other effects. Last year 40% of the GM cotton crop in the Indian state of Maharashtra…

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    17. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to MADGE Australia Inc

      Hi MADGE. As is typical of anti-science proponents, you deride the basic tenants of logic and rational thought. If I'm demanding you make sense and conduct your arguments without resorting to false arguments and fallacious thinking, then that is an indication that your arguments are flawed. If you don't understand this and don't understand the science, then your comments on this topic are not of any value and are only seeking to cloud the discussion.

      Now, you make several claims, for which you…

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    18. MADGE Australia Inc

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Hi Tyson,
      I have produced evidence for my claims - see previous post. You waving around phrases like "anti-science proponents, ...basic tenants of logic and rational thought.....false arguments and fallacious thinking" are no substitute for evidence.

      If you want to see what is happening to farmers in the US read this report:
      http://farmertofarmercampaign.com

      "Seed options are diminishing while prices increase at historic rates. (the report) uses industry sources, government data, and personal…

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    19. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to MADGE Australia Inc

      Oh dear. You really don't get it, do you. Your evidence isn't evidence, your claims are irrational.

      Citing biased websites that state the opposite of the independent industry figures is just you trying to mislead people here. http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wisconsin/Publications/Annual_Statistical_Bulletin/page27.pdf
      http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Michigan/Publications/Ag_Across_Michigan/aam07.txt

      But it is worse than that, you are deliberately cherry picking the…

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    20. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Well no. I was not ascribing any undue significance to the word 'natural' only repeating it as you used it in describing "natural methods used by scientists".

      I would remind you that new species derive from 'natural selection' are as a result of mutation in the wild, and as a result of non-GM plant breeding selection programs.

      However, I was making the point that these non-GM varieties do not essentially derive from trans-kingdom, horizontal gene transfer between multi-cellular eukaryotes…

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    21. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      You think?

      Gee Tyson, I'm disappointed in you. Posting a link that has nothing to do with industrial GM but is an interesting paper on the epigenetic expression of traits does not answer my objection to unregulated trans-kingdom gene transfer and its potential hazards.

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    22. In reply to Paul Rogers

      Comment removed by moderator.

    23. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      It's cheaper, ain't it :)

      "Genetically modified crops, or GM for short, are plants with altered DNA, which improves their nutritional value or increases their resistance to external chemicals and the elements. Many farmers have turned to growing these crops because they are easier to grow, and in many cases are far less expensive to maintain due to their hardier resistance to herbicides. GMs large crop outputs and faster returns on investment have made them attractive to many farmers."

      And…

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    24. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Other than the fact that your swearing in a forum like this is a sign of desperation, yes I did miss the other articles in the scroll, but now, other than the bovine/snake retrotransposon artefact -- obviously some left-over sequences from evolutionary timescales -- I found no evidence that trans-kingdom horizontal gene transfer at the eurkaryote level of higher organisms is a feature of new species evolution.

      Thus, I return to my original point that industrial GM bears no relation to 'natural GMOs' (your term), and that's why we need adequate testing, which we do not have.

      In relation to regulation; yes of course I'm aware we have a 'regulatory' process. The focus of this article is its inadequacy.

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    25. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      So you read all 160 articles in less than 13 hours? That's unlikely. Especially given your current statements.

      And it isn't swearing, as I used the term as a noun, not an expletive. I was categorising your claims for being patently false. As are your claims of inadequate testing, but I would guess that your idea of adequate testing would mean no advancement ever in the fields of biotechnology, medicine, engineering, etc, etc.

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    26. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      Paul,
      Here are some of the examples of trans-kingdom gene movement in higher organisms that have been documented

      http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0059262

      Natural GMOs Part 161. Bacteria to Bombyx: Characterization of an Ancient Lepidopteran Lateral Gene Transfer

      Lateral Transfer of Genes from Fungi Underlies Carotenoid Production in Aphids
      http://www.sciencemag.org/content/328/5978/624

      Keen NT, Roberts PA (1998) Plant parasitic nematodes: Digesting a page…

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    27. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Tyson, I'm curious as to your basis for claiming there is adequate testing. The regulatory regime in Australia is an approval process, based on data provided by companies and an assumption of safety embedded in substantial equivalence. FSANZ is satisfied with a chemical analysis of the GM construct. It does not require independent review of data; does not require feeding studies and does not require more advanced testing methods - including that undertaken by TJ Higgins of CSIRO for his GM pea. Obviously, if you have already decided that GM is safe, then none of this matters and a regulatory regime that is phony doesn't matter either. But if you are serious about a regime that examines the safety of GM foods you can't hold up FSANZ as anything other than a sham.

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    28. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      You mean the successful testing that saw the GM pea scrapped before it was ever released? That successful testing?

      Your statements show you don't understand all the stages of testing and development that are designed to pick up problems. The example you cite was actually an example of the regulatory process for development successfully stopping something being released.

      But then, Jeremy, your bias is well known here. You really don't like any agricultural science.

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    29. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Tyson, the GM pea testing was completely outside the regulatory process It is to the credit of Higgins and CSIRO that it occurred but the claims made at the time that this proved the system worked were lies. The tests done on the GM pea are not required anywhere by any regulator. If the GM pea had been assessed against current FSANZ requirements it would have been approved. It raises the obvious question how many GM foods that have been approved would have been stopped had more sophisticated testing…

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    30. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to David Tribe

      David, thanks. I must say I admire your technical expertise and poise in these matters.

      However, the pea aphid fungal carotene transfer is interesting for sure and yes, that is an example of trans-kingdom movement, although the definition of "higher animals" may be a little non-specific.

      I would say, though, that I was referencing a rather specific set of circumstances, ie, trans-kingdom, horizontal transfer among eukaryotes. Some of those in your list don't qualify for that.

      I chose that…

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    31. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Again, you are trying to say that the system didn't work, when it did. If the system had failed the crop would have been released and then found to be bad. What about this don't you understand? Do you honestly think that every step in a process has no responsibilities for safety and testing? Because that is just plain stupid.

      And it wasn't an ad hominem attack. Your stance is well documented here to oppose agricultural science. Your comments here, your comments on golden rice, your backing of the Seralini paper that lacked any scientific rigour (tumour prone rats get tumours: shocking!!), your claims that biodynamics is anything other than snakeoil, your quoting of Pusztai when he hadn't even published his work (which didn't support his claims when it was analysed and published). This is you being opposed to agricultural science, because you are not siding with the evidence. That is not an ad hominem, that is an indictment against your statements here.

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    32. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      I think its worth noting that the CSIRO pea was never shown to be an allergenic risk, and in fact futrher results indicate that the reactions seen are not connected with the transgene:
      See:
      Genetically Modified α-Amylase Inhibitor Peas Are Not Specifically Allergenic in Mice
      Summary
      Weevils can devastate food legumes in developing countries, but genetically modified peas (Pisum sativum), chickpeas and cowpeas expressing the gene for alpha-amylase inhibitor-1 (αAI) from the common bean (Phaseolus…

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    33. MADGE Australia Inc

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Hi Tyson,
      You posted 2 links about GM planting in the US. As I posted in a previous link, this is not surprising given the ownership of seed by a handful of companies that promote GM seed and restrict the sale of non-GM. Here is the US report again http://farmertofarmercampaign.com

      You also seem to be concerned about climate change. There is a system that “can double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty.” It's called…

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    34. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to MADGE Australia Inc

      No, I linked to the USDA statistics on variety types as a rebuttal to your claim that farmers couldn't access non-GM varieties. My evidence shows that your claims are and were false.

      Your next point is preposterous. "Double food production in 10 years" when the last doubling took 3-4 times that long and has seen vast improvements in crops, agronomy, machinery, technology and general efficiency. To claim that agroecology can do better in a fraction of the time is not only unlikely but would need…

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    35. MADGE Australia Inc

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Hi Tyson,
      You linked to page saying GM corn accounted for 86 percent of the corn acres planted in Michigan and GM soy was 91 percent. This is what the US farmers were complaining about in their report! http://farmertofarmercampaign.com

      The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food showed that agroecology can double food production:
      http://www.srfood.org/index.php/en/component/content/article/1174-report-agroecology-and-the-right-to-food

      Agroecology is not a retreat to the past as you imagine…

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    36. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to MADGE Australia Inc

      No, again, you were saying that the farmers couldn't access seed. Yet they can, as evidenced by the fact that some aren't growing GM. But you also decided to cite the higher of the two sets of figures (and obviously not investigate the other states figures.....), as the Wisconsin figures I linked to had lower percentages. But I'll also turn that argument on its head and say that a majority of farmers are choosing to grow GM!

      Now, the "retreat to the past" framing is interesting. I definitely qualified…

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    37. MADGE Australia Inc

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Hi Tyson,
      To use your form of argument ie making assertions about the person you are talking to: "you don't seem to realise you are ridiculous". I have given plenty of evidence and you have closed your eyes and stuffed your fingers in your ears. Of course GM crops have created resistance - that was why people condemned them in the first place - it was obvious they would fail. Agroecology is a system wide approach that avoids massive pest problems. Have a look at this link which shows that the most…

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    38. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to MADGE Australia Inc

      No, GM doesn't create resistance. That is just ignorant. I've already outlined that resistance is related to the selection pressures in place. GM might be part of that, but in Australia we have only had GM for a few seasons and we had resistance well before that. And I'm pretty sure that the opposition to GM started as and continues to be motivated by ideology, but definitely not concerns about resistance, which were already occurring.

      And no, agroecology won't avoid pest problems. The only thing…

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    39. MADGE Australia Inc

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      GM creates resistance because a) herbicide tolerant crops use more herbicide and create resistant weeds=superweeds b) insect tolerant crops create resistance by producing a toxin that insects become immune to = super pests. Selection pressures create resistance and GM crops create enormous selection pressure for superpests and super weeds. I'm not sure why you can't grasp this fact.

      SRI is being adopted by farmers as it is so successful. Unsurprisingly there are scientists with their noses out…

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    40. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to MADGE Australia Inc

      No, incorrect. Herbicide tolerant crops don't use more herbicide at all. They create an early window to get a good weed kill with a broad-spectrum herbicide so that later use of separate grass and broadleaf sprays (dependent upon crop type) are either not needed or are tackling late germinations. This is overall less! And the term is resistance, not superweeds, as weeds that are resistant may actually be inferior genetically, just able to survive being sprayed with chemical X.

      Ditto with insects…

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    41. MADGE Australia Inc

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Hi Tyson,
      GM crops use more herbicide: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/5-gm-crops-impacts-on-the-farm-and-environment/5-2-myth-gm-crops-decrease-pesticide-use

      Here is a film of US farmers and their problems with GM crops and chemical use:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEX654gN3c4

      You may regard superweeds as genetically inferior but I think US farmers that have superweeds that breaks their equipment and is leading them to hand harvest may regard them as a problem:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-cka5s4AqE

      GM corn is falling over in fields as the root worm is now resistant to bt:
      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-02/monsanto-corn-is-showing-illinois-insect-damage-as-investigation-widens.html

      GM technology is a dud.

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  4. mark mc dougall

    educator

    Has any university or lab dared to test australian grown corn for GM traits? I'm told the fellow who tested corn in mexico got a rough trot. Or Brassicas(cabbage,cauliflower,kale,rocket)?
    Sorry not an rna issue,.. but still a safety/ migration,.. assumptions versus reality issue...?

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  5. Chris Kelly

    Horticulture Research Technician

    Any indication that RNA is becoming the snake oil of the 21st century or the cause of any catastrophe? Anything at all?

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    1. Jonathan Latham

      Biologist

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      There is a heap of evidence that dsRNA molecules harm mammals. They are triggers for immune responses and even are used experimentally to induce autoimmune diseases, as in this paper: Okada C., Akbar S.M.F., Horiike N., and Onji M. (2005) Early development of primary biliary cirrhosis in female C57BL/6 mice because of poly I:C administration. Liver International 25: 595-603. (Note: Poly I:C is a universally used experimental substitute for dsRNA).
      The pathway by which this occurs is also well known…

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    2. Chris Kelly

      Horticulture Research Technician

      In reply to Jonathan Latham

      Please explain how any of that indicates that RNA (context GM food) is becoming the snake oil of the 21st century or the cause of any catastrophe. Thankyou

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    3. Karl Haro von Mogel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Jonathan Latham

      Claiming harm from consuming dsRNA from a study that involves injecting poly I:C directly into tissues is a stretch. Not only is the route of introduction very different from eating it in food where it will subject to digestion, but the example you give is an artificial dsRNA mimic that contains bases (Inosine and Cytidine) that are not present in our RNA, and certainly not in such an arrangement.

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    4. Karl Haro von Mogel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      Yes, I noticed that line about snake oil too. The reference comes from fraudulent salespeople who tell you something works when it doesn't. There was nothing in the article that supported the argument that it doesn't work as intended.

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    5. Chris Kelly

      Horticulture Research Technician

      In reply to Karl Haro von Mogel

      Or that it is becoming the cause of any catastrophe. Unfortunate language from Jack.

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    6. Karl Haro von Mogel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Jack Heinemann

      Yes, inosine is particularly important for the 'Wobble Base" in transfer RNAs (tRNA). I would, however, describe it as uncommon, not common. But my point was that poly I:C was not in any way common.

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    7. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Karl Haro von Mogel

      What is your association in this subject?
      Independent researcher, for a university maybe
      Or a employee of a ??

      not criticizing your facts, but still interested about possible bias.

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    8. Karl Haro von Mogel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Jack Heinemann

      This is getting awfully nitpicky, and is missing the point of my argument. I also never said it was rare, I said uncommon. 1 in 17,000 is not common, it is uncommon. Yes, Adenosine to Inosine RNA editing is one of the most common forms of RNA editing, but all these facts which we can list do not make Poly I:C something that we have ever found in living organisms. Nor do we find ourselves injected with it in nature.

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    9. Chris Kelly

      Horticulture Research Technician

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      Looks like the answer is a resounding no! So why does Jack choose to use this language? Jack?

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    10. Jack Heinemann

      Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at University of Canterbury

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      I don't understand the question, Chris. I haven't claimed that a dsRNA product is snake oil. The sentence in question calls for establishing a rigorous process of evaluation to avoid this from happening.

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    11. Chris Kelly

      Horticulture Research Technician

      In reply to Jack Heinemann

      Because there is a likelihood of this occurring? Snake oil and catastrophes? Sensationalism!

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    12. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Karl Haro von Mogel

      I'm mostly curios Karl :)

      And also biased towards us using plants as they are meant, able to reproduce naturally that is. When it comes to genetics and how they will impact on us from a long time perspective I do think that we need studies, and that 'the state' should be responsible for those, not companies wanting to sell. Either that or we need to make sure that there is as little bias as possible. I don't share your trust in that all new inventions will be for the good. Thanks for answering my question :)

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    13. Karl Haro von Mogel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      Would it interest you to know that most of the plant foods we eat are not being used "as they are meant" to, by which I suppose you mean their natural state? Corn is very different from its ancestor, the same with broccoli and cauliflower, and a whole host of other foods.

      I agree with you that we need more government sponsored research on GE crops. The sorry state of affairs is that governments are strapped for cash, and groups that oppose GE crops campaign against the government spending money on them and say that the companies should foot the bill - and then paradoxically say that they won't accept company-funded research. With a little political capital maybe we can all change this.

      I also don't think that all new inventions will be for good. We have to evaluate them on a case by case basis to determine that.

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  6. Claire Parfitt

    Research student at University of Sydney

    Thanks so much to the authors for this excellent article shedding light on a subject which has received far too little attention.

    This is exactly the kind of rigorous and independent analysis that is required *before* public policy makers decide to approve things like the cultivation of GM crops.

    It has been made clear by many prominent scientists that there is simply not enough information to be sure about the public health and environmental consequences of growing and consuming GM crops…

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    1. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      "Here are 126 independent studies on the health and environmental safety of GM crops."

      Welll, that's a bit of a laugh. Is that 'shotgun' collection of references, some of which do not support GM safety, and others that have nothing to do with GM, supposed to be the 'science' that GM supporters putatively promote?

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    2. Claire Parfitt

      Research student at University of Sydney

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      One seriously undermines one's credibility by relying on Monsanto's information about this issue - the company that is making more money than any other out of GM crops.

      I refer to Paul's comments below with respect to the '126 independent studies'.

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    3. Chris Kelly

      Horticulture Research Technician

      In reply to Claire Parfitt

      If Monsanto's own statement on academic access to their GM seed was the only reference that I provided then you may have a point (not a very good one though). You seem to have failed to have even read them as both my links specifically deal with the content of your links. In case you have not noticed a lot has changed since 2009. Your argumentum ad monsantium is worthless.
      To further highlight that GM material is available for independent academic research I have presented you with a list of over 100 independent studies and you point to the worthless ramblings of Paul Rogers. Research student? Wow!

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    4. Chris Kelly

      Horticulture Research Technician

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      That list, i believe is the most comprehensive list of independent studies on GM to be found anywhere on the web. If you find it so funny perhaps you can present us with a more comprehensive one. We all look forward to that!

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    5. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      Very few of those studies you refer-to are actually safety studies and some of the studies actually show harm from GM crops.

      Look at what the pharmaceutical industry does in animal and human studies to see what a safety study is. They know that in vitro studies and compositional comparisons of the type done by GM companies are not safety studies. You need to do long-term animal studies and look for health outcomes that are relevant to humans, at a minimum.

      Most of the animal studies reported…

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    6. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Judy Carman

      To Judy Carmen, You obtained $92,000 grant from the WA Government to study the effect of GM food on rats about 4 years ago. COULD YOU PLEASE DIRECT ME TO YOUR CONCLUSIONS OF THIS RESEARCH-

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    7. Karl Haro von Mogel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Judy Carman

      If these studies found that male cows grew fat and produced milk, I think they would decidedly NOT conclude that they were healthy. I think if any GE crop produced that kind of effect they would be pulled immediately from the market!
      The 126 study list is part of a larger list that has expanded to include 600+ studies, and will eventually be the most comprehensive resource of its kind. http://www.biofortified.org/genera/studies-for-genera/
      Scientists have to take all of the evidence into account…

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    8. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to Karl Haro von Mogel

      I'm sorry if you misunderstood what I was saying, Karl, so please let me be clear.

      You are claiming that the studies on your list show that GM crops are safe for people to eat. I am trying to point out to you that most of the studies do NOT do that. To show you this, I have taken just one example of one type of study that is on your list. (I could talk about other study types, but that will take longer.) This type of study feeds a GM crop to one gender (females) of one species (cattle) and…

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    9. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to trevor prowse

      Thank you for taking an interest in my research, Trevor. First, a correction is in order. The Government of Western Australia gave a grant of money to the Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER), not me. I am a Director of IHER. The money was granted to conduct long-term, independent studies on animals into the health effects of GM crops, where the outcomes being measured were relevant to human health not animal production. We conducted research on pigs in the US and we hope to…

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    10. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Judy Carman

      Odd, the breeding and research companies/organisations never seem to have problems. The fact that UWA's Wallace Cowling, the state dept of ag and CSIRO are all doing GM research suggests you weren't approaching the companies in question correctly.

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    11. Chris Kelly

      Horticulture Research Technician

      In reply to Judy Carman

      Judy "As I hope you can appreciate, no researcher can talk about their research until it is published." Is this something you have only recently learnt? This was not of any concern to you or Jack in Sept 2012 with your science by media release complete with video.

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    12. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Judy Carman

      To Judy Carmen------
      Thanks for correcting the details of the grant money. The question that I want to sort out is how can independant research be conducted on GM seeds if the owners of the seeds can refuse the use of those seeds for research. Did you know this when accepting the grant to do the research , or did you find out after accepting the grant. Now that you have completed the research, how did you obtain the GM seeds

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    13. Jack Heinemann

      Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at University of Canterbury

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      Chris
      My report was a risk assessment. It was released after the same due care to seek professional comment that is used by any regulatory authority to do the same. FSANZ and OGTR call the process I used and the process they use peer-review. It is not blind peer review as our Environment International paper went through. But it had the same or more professional review than the many studies used by the regulator at the time they are making determinations of the safety of products, and thus the report…

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    14. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to trevor prowse

      We found a legal way around the problem, but it took some time, which is why the research was delayed.

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    15. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      We approached the companies, Tyson. One company wanted us to sign a legal agreement that no sane independent scientist would sign BEFORE they would consider the POSSIBILITY of giving us ANY seeds to test. Even if we signed, there was a high probability they would still not give us any seeds, but we would still be bound by the legal agreement. Another company wanted all the details of the experiments we were going to do before they would consider our request. Again, they probably would still have said no to our request.

      Tyson - do you not understand that GM crops are patented? The company that "owns" the patent can choose who they allow to access their patented material and how much they will charge for that material. Which is why organisations that want to work with this material, such as those you have listed, have come to legal and financial agreements with the company that owns the patent. These agreements generally involve partnerships to jointly develop GM crops.

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    16. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to Chris Kelly

      I agree with everything that Jack Heinemann has written in response to you but wish to add the following.

      Indeed, no researcher can talk publicly about their research until it is published.

      Are you not aware that there is a difference between the "publication" of a commissioned report and publication in a peer-review scientific journal? The situation you are referring to was a commissioned report for a charitable body. And, indeed, I could not talk publicly about the report until the body released it.

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    17. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Judy Carman

      I understood that. I was asserting that I know of several scientists who have not encountered this problem, which lead me to question why you were having difficulties.

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    18. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      And thjs is good advice?

      "In 2009, Monsanto scientists initially discovered that insects had developed resistance to the Bt Cotton planted in Gujarat and when studies were completed, Monsanto communicated this to the Indian government and its customers, stating that "Resistance is natural and expected, so measures to delay resistance are important.

      Among the factors that may have contributed to pink bollworm resistance to the Cry1Ac protein in Bollgard I in Gujarat are limited refuge planting and early use of unapproved Bt cotton seed, planted prior to GEAC approval of Bollgard I cotton, which may have had lower protein expression levels."[223]

      The company advised farmers to switch to its second generation of Bt cotton – Bolguard II – which had two resistance genes instead of one.[224]

      The final solution? Or maybe 'one step at a time' :)
      Naah.

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    19. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Judy Carman

      Ahh that's an easy one I would say, secret technologies, I'm sure you understand? They just need to protect themselves from people reverse engineering the seeds, to sell it cheaper. Also it protects the 'little man', as there can be no-one monopolizing on the distribution of uniquely engineered seeds.

      Eh, I'm not implying that this was your plan though..

      simple really..

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    20. Karl Haro von Mogel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Judy Carman

      No, I understood what you were saying, but it doesn't seem you understood me. Furthermore, I didn't say that cow milk production itself extrapolates to human health.

      "Taken to its logical conclusion, your use of such studies to argue that the GM crop will be fine for human health is to argue that it is healthy for men to get fat and produce milk from their breasts."

      No it does not.

      You didn't seem to catch the first thing I said about human health, and your response makes me doubt your interpretation…

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  7. Mary Mangan

    logged in via LinkedIn

    I looked at the report on dsRNA sponsored by Safe Food Foundation by Heinemann and Carman in extensive detail last year. It was a dreadful misuse of sequence analysis tools and sequence record data, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    What they don't seem to understand is that other people--including plant science teams and food agency scientists--do know how to use these tools appropriately.

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    1. Karl Haro von Mogel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mary Mangan

      I want to say that I find this article to be a relatively refreshing way for Jack Heinemann and Judy Carman to approach the topic of risk and safety. The Safe Food Foundation commissioned "report" claiming liver disease risk and containing poorly documented and justified BLAST searches was the complete opposite, and a real shame to have entered the debate over the use of double-stranded RNA.
      When you search a genome with 25 kilobases of even random sequence you are going to find lots of meaningless matches, let alone when the sequence comes from somewhere. An RNAi construct, especially one that has been described in published literature, is not going to contain 25 kb of upstream regulatory and non-expressed sequences and pseudogenes, but will be designed from key exons within the gene itself.

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    2. Jack Heinemann

      Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at University of Canterbury

      In reply to Karl Haro von Mogel

      Thanks Karl for raising my earlier work looking at the dsRNA-based nutritionally altered GM wheat. You are incorrect in claiming that my report for the Safe Food Institute made a claim about liver disease. Perhaps you have not read my report? It is available in its entirety at www.inbi.canterbury.ac.nz.

      The risk assessment I did for that report was precisely what we outline as necessary in our latest Environment International article (http://bit.ly/14i7pyG) with the materials available to us at…

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    3. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Mary Mangan

      I have read with the earlier and the more recent reports that Jack Heinemann has put out on this issue, and it's a good thing that he and his colleagues present their arguments in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The safe application of RNA interference is certainly helped by a healthy debate.

      There are some unexamined assumptions in his own reports. He describes other approaches than his as "assumption based" analysis, while referring to his own work as evidence-based. David MacKay has…

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    4. Jack Heinemann

      Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at University of Canterbury

      In reply to David Tribe

      @DT “One of the assumptions that Jack seems to be making is that the risks of dsRNA from conventional crops are not worth attending to.”
      Response: I’ve never made this assumption or statement. It is an example of you David constructing an argument that you say is mine and then arguing against it. As I said earlier, like it or not GM crops are regulated and the standard of evaluation most regulators currently use is comparative. So conventional crop plants are the baseline for the risk because they…

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    5. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Jack Heinemann

      Jack Heineman
      THE SFF report you authored on wheat ds RNA was early stage debate. You had to guess what RNA is involved and haven't provided evidence your guess is relevant to any food appearing in the market or slated for entry into the food chain. Your comments were necessarily highly speculative.

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    6. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to Mary Mangan

      Mary, Jack and I wrote detailed, evidence-based scientific reports with references. You've given a very general statement lacking detail, evidence or references.

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    7. Jack Heinemann

      Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at University of Canterbury

      In reply to David Tribe

      By time a product is approved for use in a human feeding study we are beyond "early stage". It may seem early to you, but it is late in the game for those eating the wheat even if it is a small number of volunteers who participate in the trial. Neither the developer nor the regulator (OGTR) has so far contradicted our claim from September last year that the simple risk assessment I outlined in my report, and later published in Environment International, was done before the wheat was approved for growing with the intention of feeding to human volunteers. This indicates to me that full informed consent could not have been possible. The human ethics committee may not have been aware of these risks either if the regulator was not.

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  8. Jack Heinemann

    Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at University of Canterbury

    In response to arguments that novel dsRNA molecules should not be tested in GM plants because there is the hypothetical possibility that potentially harmful dsRNA molecules might arise through breeding:
    1. This is an interesting speculation that has little or no evidence. While the variation in quantity, and to some extent qualitative differences, is high in offspring that arise from breeding, to my knowledge there are no comparative assessments published using properly controlled isogenic lines…

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    1. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Jack Heinemann

      I replied above, but your first point was the information I wanted to see in the article. Thanks.

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  9. Jeremy Tager

    Extispicist

    Thanks Jack, Judy and Sarah for highlighting the special regulatory needs associated with dsRNA technology.
    The lack of safety testing for ds RNA technology continues several disturbing patterns in our food regulatory regimes.
    The first is characterised by a lack of regulatory intervention in new technologies until they are so commercially embedded that regulation becomes more difficult and less stringent. This has been true of GM, Nano and now dsRNA.
    When regulatory intervention occurs it…

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  10. Howard Vlieger

    logged in via Facebook

    Mr. Adams, Please tell us how many scientific papers you are the author or coauthor of. It would be interesting to see how your credentials compare to Dr. Huber's. He is author and coauthor of over 300 peer reviewed papers as well as coauthor of numerous publications on mineral nutrition and plant disease. If you investigate the names of Dr. Huber's critics at Purdue University you will find that the experienced and knowledgeable members of the various research departments were absent from the extension bulletin you site as fact on glyphosate. The critics were predominately junior members of the staff who are obviously willing to carry water for the GM industry. It seems there are a lot of scientists who wish to prostitute themselves for the sake of the GM industry.

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    1. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Howard Vlieger

      What a load of logical fallacies. My scientific publications have nothing to do with the validity of Huber's claims. Nor does the number of Huber's papers have anything to do with the validity of his claims. I should point out that a quick Google Scholar search only yields 108 for DM Huber, and many of them are not his and some of the ones that are his are merely conference papers, in fact I see his Purdue profile lists no peer reviewed papers, only talks, contribution to chapters of books, and a…

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  11. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    When Australia's GM researchers cease collaborating with multi-national miscreants, the masses may talk turkey.

    The Australian public object to being bludgeoned into submission.

    After all, for some 60 years, they were assured by the same international scoundrels that they could practically put dioxins on their Weeties.

    Déjà vu?

    Bring on the referendum.

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    1. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Strange, the vast majority of farmers are pro-GM. It is their research dollars that are being spent, as decided by the farmer representative boards. Seems your emotive argument lacks validity as much as the irrelevance of your reference to dioxin.

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    2. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Tyson, that is not true. I was Vice President of WA Farmers Grains Council for years and there was serious concern but it was bulldozed by top down decisions with a government push to support plant breeders forming profitable partnerships.
      The vast majority of farmers are not pro-GM and most are against their research dollars being spent on GM research when scientists and plant breeding institutes use this to trade partnerships with corporate companies so that they can charge farmers more and lock…

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    3. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Julie, your blatant bias on GM means that the only people you ever listen to are people that agree with you. As Bill Crabtree summed up your last anti-GM rally in Perth: "The real farmers are too busy working." I'd also point out the articles in today's West and the rural press which cited how unrepresentative the WAFF and PGA are in WA. Your claims ring very, very hollow.

      Your other points are nothing but conspiracy theory nonsense. I don't know where you get off insulting scientists with the…

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    4. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Tyson, I have to say that your vituperative tone and absolutely zealous support for GM come across not as scientific but fundamentalist. If you think corporate control of the food chain isn't on the agenda, you really are not paying attention. Part of that process is the increasing private funding of sciences in Universities and research institutes. CSIRO is a good example - and the notion that CSIRO plant industries - is independent is laughable. They are not only in contractual relations with biotech…

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    5. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Oh, how naive of you Jeremy.

      Your conspiracy theory on chemical company corporate control of the food chain is ridiculous. Show proof, not wild and unfounded claims. Show me the evidence of whole of supply chain control, starting with the end product users and working back. Not isolated instances, because you said control. Your claims can't live up to your own hype.

      Next your woefully inaccurate claims against CSIRO. Of course they won't release the partnership details, because they are developing…

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    6. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      What a laugh... Tyson, how can you possibly claim scientists don't benefit and are insulted by the claim. Info is freely available. When the Ag Minister (head of Ag Dept) said yes to GM, Monsanto paid the plant breeding institute Intergrain (mainly the Ag Dept) $10.5million for a 19.9% share. CSIRO also have confidential deals with Monsanto where they use their patented technologies free of charge for unknown conditions. Plant breeders wanting to form alliances with multinations was a driving force in Senate debate. Governments want to reduce funding and "capitalise on investments" as the biotechnology plan states.

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    7. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Julie Newman

      So you're claiming that the private company, Intergrain, that is owned by the shareholders GRDC, DAFWA and Monsanto is a public and independent organisation? You seem to be mistaken. http://www.intergrain.com/

      And exactly how have the scientists benefited? How have they been "bought" so that they won't do anything other than excellent research?

      And exactly how does any of the relate to the independent research done by other organisations and groups at CSIRO and state depts?

      Like I said…

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    8. Richard Widows

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Tyson, you hide behind this wall of "science" that you clearly don't understand. Believing blindly in everything you read on David Tribe's blog, as if no real scientist has ever questioned GM. You attack everyone who dares question your position. Apologies for the direct attack here but you really are one of the most ignorant people I have ever come across. Second only to Chris Kelly who is still to this day, the only person I have ever blocked on my twitter account after 5 years of using the medium…

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    9. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Richard Widows

      So you do an ad hominem attack on me and then do an argument from authority for yourself despite knowing nothing about me nor having anything to rebut the actual science I have linked to. You also slight David Tribe, yet the links I have given to his blog are directly to the abstracts of science papers.

      You accuse me of attacking people, I have done no such thing. Unlike your post, I have attacked the arguments for being false and misleading or based on invalid or no evidence. This is the basis…

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    10. Chris Kelly

      Horticulture Research Technician

      In reply to Richard Widows

      Not to say it didn't happen Richard but I cannot recall any interaction with you on twitter. However I'm happy to hear that I may have contributed to a memorable experience for you. In most probability what you say about blocking me is true as this is the usual course of action on twitter of those whose ideas cannot stand up to scrutiny. Very strange but happy to see that you choose to engage me again, or maybe not...... "I really have no interest in debating with you" Fire a shot and run away again?

      Many scientists have questioned GM cropping, it is the number of scientists that come to different conclusions to the regulatory bodies that is significant.

      Since we are reunited, care to elucidate on the destruction of land, farmers and rural communities that you have witnessed at the hand of the technology that is genetic engineering.

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    11. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      I did no such claim and did not sling even a handful of mud... my you are being a tad precious tonight. Can't handle facts eh?
      Lets look at Intergrain, it now holds all the research that the public research sector of the Ag Dept paid for. It did and still does get funding from GRDC which is majority funded (by a compulsory levy) by farmers who do not get any ownership of the intellectual property they pay for. Intergrain, now part owned by Monsanto get to direct the research in whatever direction they want and being commercial (particularly with Monsanto shareholding) they want to make as much profit as possible. Well locking farmers into contracts by adding a gene to every variety produced would be more profitable. This would remove the choice for farmers and all farmers may be faced with only having GM seed to buy and only being locked in by patent contracts removing our rights. I don't care how princessy you get, this is cold hard facts.

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    12. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Tyson, your view of the regulatory system working based on a non-regulatory outcome extrapolated to a whole regulatory system indicates to me that you are simply irrational on this issue - I have no desire to engage in a discussion that is closer to religion than reason.
      Re corporate control - tell me about Monsanto's buying up of seed businesses - what percentage of control and how do they use it?
      This is a waste of my time.

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    13. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Tyson - where has Julie said that she doesn't support R&D in Australia for farmers to combat climate change? Where has she said that she is intent on blocking any genetic advancements that might help? I can't find anywhere that she has said these things, as you claim she has.

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    14. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Dear Tyson, could please explain what you mean by this? "And no, privately funded science conducted by a public entity is not more likely to find in favour of the private company's products. In fact, if you had any comprehension of the number of lawsuits and suppression orders that snakeoil companies put on public entities, you'd understand that only good research is done."

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    15. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Again, you are trying to imply that Intergrain is not a private company. The source of its owners money does not change the fact that it is a private company. But that was not my point, and you have not addressed my point: in what way has this biased the researchers at the public institutions such that "scientists are only interested in their own potential profits"?

      You offer no evidence to suggest that scientists are profiting (which suggests you think they are shills and on the take), yet you make that accusation. That is insulting and libellous slander.

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    16. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Judy Carman

      I made no such statement. I quite clearly stated that climate change was the biggest issue facing agriculture as a rebuttal to Julie's claim that GM was the biggest issue. I then made the statement that she should start doing something about supporting R&D to combat climate change, as she had just ridiculed all the government R&D organisations in the state.

      I'm not sure if you are aware, but several of the new GM lines are actually being developed to combat a drying climate. Thus Julie's opposition to GM runs against beneficial research for agriculture and climate change. Thus, I was asking her to justify her position.

      There was no need for the strawman.

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    17. Jeremy Tager

      Extispicist

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      ah yes, it had to happen..GM as the solution to climate, world hunger etc..How about AIDS and world peace. It is extraordinary to hear a scientist embrace such panaceas. Tragic really - it can't even improve yields!

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    18. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Judy Carman

      What I was meaning was that publically and privately funded scientists are first and foremost scientists. As I'm sure you understand, scientists will generally try to eliminate bias in their work. This is also why methods and results are standard, so that other scientists can see those biases and limitations in their work. So to suggest, as was done, that a scientist is bought and paid for, requires evidence. I then made a vague reference to the example of work that is often blocked and experts muzzled by lawsuit threats to stop public comment against things like biodynamics, twinN, worm juice, etc to show that public scientists don't always find in favour of private company goods and face fierce opposition for doing so.

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    19. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Your claims on GM improving yields is both misleading and a falsity. Firstly you are referring to a trial that was designed to test the trait did not have a growth penalty for the same base cultivars under Aussie conditions. This was done in a weed free environment, so GM RR was never going to provide a yield improvement from lower weed burdens, and this was not the point of the research. Thus you are fraudulently citing research findings.

      But lets go a step further. RR GM is not meant to improve…

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    20. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      The Western Australian government authority is the major shareholder in InterGrain, however, it is not an agency for the purposes of the financial administration act.

      GRDC is the other shareholder. The 19.9 per cent investment by Monsanto in InterGrain is to the value of $10.5 million, which puts InterGrain’s value at about $53 million.

      Therefore, the majority of InterGrain is publicly owned. Why try and manipulate facts? They have a habit of popping up somewhere else.

      In addition…

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    21. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      No conspiracy Tyson :)

      Just money. And greed, naturally. behind all the banderols, 'saving the world'. Someone, or some, put up with the initial stake, not for want of benevolence, but from wanting a fat dividend :)

      You don't really need conspiracies for that.

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    22. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Of course I am suggesting that scientists are profiting and it is not libellous, insulting or slander, it is true and I have to laugh at your rejection of that fact. Since the National Competition Policy reform was introduced, government agencies are forced to form alliances and partnerships for profit.
      Look at how GM cotton has profited the scientists, the information is freely available as this is the drive for pushing it.
      It is worth noting how Monsanto structures their pricing. An addendum to Monsanto's shareholder report explained their pricing on Bt corn. They do their own trials, assess any benefit and charge 100% of those benefits. From survey feedback, they then value things like "ease of use", "peace of mind", "more time with the family" then charge 20-30% of that. Farmers can't benefit from GM, but scientists are promised a cut through alliances. How on earth can you say that scientists are not getting paid for GM research?

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    23. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Julie Newman

      And again, you offer no evidence to support your claims. I'd really love to see these rich scientists. Maybe I too can get a shill check in the mail each month.

      Your points on pricing are irrelevant. That is standard product market pricing practice. Oh, and nice try at a strawman by shifting the goal-posts of your argument.

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    24. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Yoron Hamber

      It is called a conspiracy theory when you offer no proof for your claims of large scale group doing nefarious things. Offer proof of CSIRO being anything other than Australia's leading scientific organisation.

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    25. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      And again, you are missing the point that Intergrain is still a private company. The argument Julie keeps banging on with is that Intergrain is still DAFWA and that Monsanto has bought out DAFWA breeding interests. You've pointed out my point, that this isn't the case.

      As for the poisoning the well logical fallacy, whether it be Monsanto or Syngenta or any other company, using the negative emotional rhetoric surrounding them instead of actually addressing the real issue, in this case it would be "is Syngenta developing good products for barley grower", you are casting aspersions. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Poisoning_the_well

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    26. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      I am not aligned with your belief system where one’s eyes are a thousand blind windows and corporate improbities are mere peccadilloes.

      I’ve heard the urge to save humanity is very often a false front for the urge to profit.

      It would be easier to believe in this "great moment of scientific reawakening" if academia ceased collaborating with internationally known, recidivist offenders.

      Thankfully publicity remains the soul of justice for consumers and more particularly, consumers down…

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    27. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Oh dear. More poisoning the well and folding of a tin foil hat.

      And yes, curse scientists for wanting to learn about the world and make it a better place. Curse Them!

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    28. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Also, your claims are completely misrepresentative and spurious poisoning of the well.

      E.g. 4-amino-3, 5, 6-trichloropicolinic acid is not an unregistered compound in Australia, it is sold as Tordan, which is widely used for woody weeds and biosecurity control.

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    29. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Yes well there are several pesticides registered in Australia which are severely restricted or banned elsewhere, but again you endeavour to manipulate facts to suit an agenda. Alluding to regulations in the US is not alluding to regulations in Australia.

      Alas, your “scientific” opinions and wilful denial of documented facts and the bleeding obvious do not live up to community expectations. Your obfuscations merely add more grist for an enlightened Australian public being force-fed spin, denial and dubious vittles from the forked-tongued biotech industry.

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    30. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      You listed a registered chemical as "blocked due to being an unregistered compound."

      It is quite clear that you are the one "manipulating facts" and in "will-full denial" to suit your agenda.

      And I have no idea what you are talking about when you say I was alluding to regulations in America. Tordan is a registered product in Australia. I can take my Chemcert card down to a store right now and buy some.

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    31. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      No, you still don't get it. It was I who alluded to the US (not you) and your response was to bleat about Tordan in Australia and your silly Chemcert card which was totally irrelevant considering the issues were regulatory violations committed by the biotech industry and sourced from the US EPA.

      http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/cases/

      Apart from the nonsensical trolling, have you endeavoured to address your severe bout of cognitive dissonance or perhaps, pesticide neurotoxicity?

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17981626

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    32. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Just look at the Biotechnology strategy, Senate estimates and any financial report done on GM cotton. Its not rocket science. Give Ian Edwards a call and ask him how much he has made on GM research and how much he wanted to when he and Bill Crabtree tried to float Green Blueprint as a public company. You seem to only want to attack anyone that dares to question the technology. Sounds very much like you have a finger in the pie too or promised one. What is your job?

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    33. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Ah, dear Tyson...It's refreshing to meet a young scientist who thinks that all scientists are nice people and always try to do the right thing. And then you also think that scientists don't get overruled by higher management and the organisations they work for. Have you not read report after research paper showing that papers published by pharmaceutical companies overwhelmingly show positive results for their drugs compared to papers published by independent researchers? Are you not aware that…

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    34. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Well, you lost the argument so now you insult me and insinuate that I'm a shill.

      Pathetic.

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    35. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Cringe - you can drag a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Facts are facts Mr Adams. They pop up everywhere. Your denial of facts, coupled with your hilarious red herrings simply reveals that your intellectual disabilities can't accept them.

      http://cfpub.epa.gov/compliance/cases/

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  12. Yoron Hamber

    Thinking

    Ahh, the progress of science. How dare you put into question a product of cutting edge technology? This is what the world turns on, food, those industries saving us from the starvation we otherwise inevitable would meet, out of their benevolent research, and willingness to distribute their newest findings, to us consumersl..

    And here you come demanding unbiased testing?
    No Such Thing...

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  13. David Quist

    Researcher

    I have to say, that as a scientist, I am rather disappointed with the discussion here.

    From my reading, this paper is useful for industry, competent authorities, and other practicioners to look carefully at current methods and improve on the hazard-identification of dsRNA both as a means for developing new dsRNA GMOs (not just plants) and evaluating those seeking regulatory assessment.

    I note with interest the unwillingness--or perhap inability--of the critics of this paper here to tackle the scientific substance head on. A majority of the critical posts have, without and scientific rationale, either dismiss the paper or the hazard issues that may involve the use novel dsRNA, or simply offered red herrings. It would be of greater interest to hear scientifically-based arguments on this work, given what empirical evidence has told us about how dsRNA functions in different contexts.

    Anyone?

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    1. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to David Quist

      It is worth noting how inadequate the regulatory process is. GM canola is crushed and half is used for meal for stock and half for oil for human consumption. When GM canola was analysed, the oil, the part consumers eat, was not tested. Monsanto tested the meal and there was a problem of an increase in liver weight of 13% with only a few weeks feeding (my medical background leads me to assume that this is a toxic reaction) but it was still permitted. It appears that FSANZ, charged with assessment of health, has no authority over stock feed and because the problem was in stockfeed, it was ignored.
      The commercial traits of GM are Bt and Ht. Bt absorbs herbicides, and Ht produces them. In both cases, the pesticide can not be washed out of the product. I certainly can understand why consumers don't want to eat it.

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    2. Julie Newman

      National Spokesperson for Network of Concerned Farmers

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Sorry... quick correction. Bt produces insecticides, and Ht absorbs herbicides (wrong way around). As Seralini's published paper indicated, the Ht or herbicide tolerant GM plants act like a sponge rather than repel the herbicides like our conventional non-GM varieties do.

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    3. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Julie Newman

      Seralini's paper was rubbish. Tumour prone rats get tumours, big surprise. Inadequate controls, poor replication, etc, means that his paper didn't show anything to match his claims.

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    4. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      BTW, I'm curious. How many other appropriately designed 2-year animal cancer trials have been conducted on GM crops?

      Any references? I could not see any in that list that keeps being promoted but I may have missed something.

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    5. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Paul Rogers

      I don't know off the top of my head. David might.

      But you also have to remember that animal analogues are used because of their shorter life-span being able to represent long time periods. I forget the exact conversion, but I think rats are 90 days equalling 15-20 years. When you do exclusive feed trials the animal essentially only eats one food type for 15-20 years, thus there any problems, they'll arise. This is why dose response is a separate issue for testing, because humans don't eat only one food our entire lives.

      Either way, this doesn't mean that Seralini's paper was anything other than crap.

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    6. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Notwithstanding the relevance of the Seralini study, this is the NTP standard protocol here:

      http://tinyurl.com/bufykke - and here - http://tinyurl.com/bmah4ye

      Harlan Sprague Dawley are standard protocol - as is a contracted commercial lab.

      No properly constituted carcinogenicity studies have been performed for GM food products as far as I can determine.

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    7. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Sure, but NTP/NCI protocols are more or less standard in IARC evaluation monographs for human cancer risk.

      Should I assume that 'none' of these tests have been carried out on GM products, nor are they required by regulators?

      And no, 90-day chronic studies do not count.

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    8. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      I see that you've now moved from being an expert on molecular biology to an expert on agriculture to being an expert on toxicological studies. You've said that "Tumour prone rats get tumours, big surprise"? Trouble is, Seralini used the same types of rats as the GM industry uses. So if he used the "wrong" rats, so has the GM industry in its testing. How were his controls inadequate, pray tell? What do you mean by "poor replication"?

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    9. Judy Carman

      Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment at Flinders University

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Tyson, you are completely wrong when you say: "I forget the exact conversion, but I think rats are 90 days equalling 15-20 years." Goodness, how long do you think a rat lives for?

      You are also wrong when you say: "When you do exclusive feed trials the animal essentially only eats one food type for 15-20 years, thus there any problems, they'll arise. " For the time span, please see my comment above. Regarding the food type, on the contrary, if a study is done properly, a GM crop is fed as part of a macro- and micro-nutrient-balanced diet.

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    10. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Judy Carman

      Where did I claim to be an expert?

      Now the rest of your post seems to be defending the Seralini paper. You can't honestly be doing that. The findings that his controls were inadequate, that the rats used were all used for too long and thus developed tumours, sample size was too small, etc.
      http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/121128.htm
      http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/2986.htm
      http://www.nature.com/news/hyped-gm-maize-study-faces-growing-scrutiny-1.11566

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    11. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Judy Carman

      Hence why I said "I forget the exact conversion..." From memory I had the figure 15 yrs from 90 days being the analogue.

      Your next point is another flaw with many of the anti-GM papers.

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  14. Clarissa Alves

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Very good work. Thanks for bringing this issues about the Brazilian regulator.

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  15. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    Excerpts:

    Charles Benbrook, research professor, Washington State U Centre for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources advises that herbicide tolerant crops have increased herbicide use by 527 million pounds over the 16-year period of 1996-2011.

    "The incremental increase per year has grown steadily from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to 18 million five years later in 2003, and 79 million pounds in 2009. In 2011, about 90 million more pounds of herbicide were applied than likely in the…

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