I have been become convinced in a comment by JerryNA that my claim that GMO foods are not currently safe is an overstatement not supported by fact.
My sincerest apologies. I was misled by an article (and several others) I linked to.
I still believe that this is an area that needs great scrutiny in the coming years. I'll leave this diary up for a bit longer so folks can discuss that if they wish, but then I'm pulling it. Thanks to everyone who has commented.
Dangerous (yes, they currently are) Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) food products are now being consumed (eaten) by the vast majority of persons in the United States, and by a huge segment of consumers worldwide. The fact that they aren't required to be labeled as GMOs in the United States, their country of origin, or that they are even adequately controlled, is a disgusting show of just how powerful (and dangerous) big business has become.
A bit of historical detective work on an actual case study of birds and mammals has now shown a process that has allowed extremely dangerous viral strains to be transmitted from one species to another, and how they have spread like wildfire (being passed genetically from one generation to the next) in the new species once the transition was complete.
I don't pretend to be an expert in this area, but it appears to me that there is some very chilling evidence that we are seriously flirting with a holocaust level disaster just so some very rich guys can get even richer. There is no better example of how greed breeds insanity that I can think of. And, it's quite possible that it's now too late to put the genie back in the bottle. But, that doesn't mean we should just throw our hands in the air and accept it as a fait accompli. I believe we need to get control of this train sooner rather than later. Otherwise, it really will be too late.
I'll make my case below the fold.
First, let's start with what we already knew. While we've known for a long time that GMO crops can't be contained, it wasn't until 2010 that we (the public) discovered that they could mutate in the wild, probably through cross-pollination with wild species. This was a warning sign that has been largely ignored.
Outside a grocery store in Langdon, N.D., two ecologists spotted a yellow canola plant growing on the margins of a parking lot this summer. They plucked it, ground it up and, using a chemical stick similar to those in home pregnancy kits, identified proteins that were made by artificially introduced genes. The plant was GM—genetically modified.Source Scientic American: Genetically Modified Crop on the Loose and Evolving in U.S. Midwest
That's not too surprising, given that North Dakota grows tens of thousands of hectares of conventional and genetically modified canola—a weedy plant, known scientifically as Brassica napus var oleifera, bred by Canadians to yield vegetable oil from its thousands of tiny seeds. What was more surprising was that nearly everywhere the two ecologists and their colleagues stopped during a trip across the state, they found GM canola growing in the wild. "We found transgenic plants growing in the middle of nowhere, far from fields," says ecologist Cindy Sagers of the University of Arkansas (U.A.) in Fayetteville, who presented the findings August 6 at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Pittsburgh. Most intriguingly, two of the 288 tested plants showed man-made genes for resistance to multiple pesticides—so-called "stacked traits," and a type of seed that biotechnology companies like Monsanto have long sought to develop and market. As it seems, Mother Nature beat biotech to it. "One of the ones with multiple traits was [in the middle of] nowhere, and believe me, there's a lot of nowhere in North Dakota—nowhere near a canola field," she adds.
That likely means that transgenic canola plants are cross-pollinating in the wild—and swapping introduced genes. Although GM canola in the wild has been identified everywhere from Canada to Japan in previous research, this marks the first time such plants have been shown to be evolving in this way. "They had novel combinations of transgenic traits," Sagers says. "The most parsimonious explanation is these traits are stable outside of cultivation and they are evolving."
Okay, that's bad, but this is worse. Earlier this year it was discovered that most GMO crops already contain extremely dangerous viral particles. You read that right.
In the course of analysis to identify potential allergens in GMO crops, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has belatedly discovered that the most common genetic regulatory sequence in commercial GMOs also encodes a significant fragment of a viral gene (Podevin and du Jardin 2012). This finding has serious ramifications for crop biotechnology and its regulation, but possibly even greater ones for consumers and farmers. This is because there are clear indications that this viral gene (called Gene VI) might not be safe for human consumption. It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance.Source Independant Science News: Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in Commercial GMO Crops
What Podevin and du Jardin discovered is that of the 86 different transgenic events (unique insertions of foreign DNA) commercialized to-date in the United States 54 contain portions of Gene VI within them. They include any with a widely used gene regulatory sequence called the CaMV 35S promoter (from the cauliflower mosaic virus; CaMV). Among the affected transgenic events are some of the most widely grown GMOs, including Roundup Ready soybeans (40-3-2) and MON810 maize. They include the controversial NK603 maize recently reported as causing tumors in rats (Seralini et al. 2012).
The researchers themselves concluded that the presence of segments of Gene VI "might result in unintended phenotypic changes". They reached this conclusion because similar fragments of Gene VI have already been shown to be active on their own (e.g. De Tapia et al. 1993). In other words, the EFSA researchers were unable to rule out a hazard to public health or the environment.
Yep, that's right. Fifty-four of the eighty-six GMO products already on the market in the United States, including the most popular products, contain what are known to be highly dangerous viral particles.
So, on to the latest (new) revelation about viral gene transmission between species.
A report published today (August 27) in PLOS Biology tells the surprising story of reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV) evolution and how, in the 1930s, unwitting malaria researchers were most likely responsible for transmitting REV from mammals to birds. The report highlights the importance of modern-day virus monitoring to limit potentially adverse transmission effects...Source TheScientist: Unexpected Origin of an Avian Virus
...REV is a retrovirus that infects poultry and wild game birds, causing an array of disease symptoms, including anemia, immunosuppression, and the production of runts. Evidence from genome sequencing studies had suggested that it originated in mammals, but most sequence similarities mapped only to fragments of REV. Because of these fragmented similarities, "I had always assumed, as had probably other virologists, that these viruses had been circulating in birds for a long time," said John Coffin, a professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University in Boston, who also was not involved in the work...
...Since its transmission to birds, REV has been spreading like wildfire. It has even become integrated into two different large DNA bird viruses—fowl poxvirus and gallid herpesvirus 2—generating new recombinant strains that today circulate in wild birds and poultry. "In a very short period of time the disease has became quite widespread," said Jonathan Stoye, a researcher at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research in London. "It indicates that retroviral transmission needs to be taken seriously."
Okay, maybe that's not as earth shattering as the previously mentioned discovery, but I think it illustrates clearly what can happen once a virus jumps the species boundary. I also believe it's significant that this jump from one species to another was the result of research.
This leads me to the position that not only do we need to place strong regulation on the commercialization of GMO crops and foods, but that we need to also heavily regulate research in this area. The potential consequences of not doing so are just too great.
I'd love to hear other thoughts on this issue, or further examples that support (or refute) my position.