Creating a ‘genetic firewall’ for GMOs

Jan 27, 2015

Image credit: Spencer Katz

By Monte Morin

Synthetic amino acids may one day allow scientists to create “genetic firewalls” that prevent GMO crops or animals from escaping into the wild and causing environmental damage, according to Harvard and Yale researchers.

On Wednesday, scientists announced that they had genetically engineered bacteria whose very survival depended on lab-formulated amino acids. By “locking in” this synthetic nutritional requirement, researchers said the bacteria would quickly die if they escaped their carefully controlled environment and entered the world at large.

“I don’t want to be alarmist or anything, but I think the point is that these organisms do spread,” said George Church, a Harvard Medical School genetics professor.

The altered bacteria, which Church and his colleagues dubbed genomically recoded organisms, or GROs, were described in a pair of studies published Wednesday in the journal Nature.


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26 comments on “Creating a ‘genetic firewall’ for GMOs

  • @Op Synthetic amino acids may one day allow scientists to create “genetic firewalls” that prevent GMO crops or animals from escaping into the wild and causing environmental damage, according to Harvard and Yale researchers.

    it’s good to see some people are taking the risks of genetic leakage, and the potential for creating herbicide proof invasive weeds, seriously!

    “I don’t want to be alarmist or anything, but I think the point is that these organisms do spread,” said George Church, a Harvard Medical School genetics professor.

    Now where have I heard commercial interests’ media stooges call scientists’ warnings “alarmist”, before???
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  • I am distressed at how casually people like Watson were about this problem. The catch is, if a serious problem happens there is absolutely nothing you can do to put the genie back in the bottle. So even something that happens only once in 100,000 times can be a big problem. You don’t know if there can be a problem until you have an octopus on your lap.

    One problem we have seen is weeds developing immunity to Roundup by stealing the immunity genes. That is fairly minor. However, when we start wilding inserting genes from all over the tree of life, we could end up contaminating crops with chemicals that many people are allergic to. Lack of labelling would make it hard to track down what was happening.

    One puzzle that makes me nervous about GMO is the way so people have recently developed wheat allergies. Presumably wheat has changed, and all wheat looks alike so nobody knows which wheat to avoid.
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  • Roedy Jan 27, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    One puzzle that makes me nervous about GMO is the way so people have recently developed wheat allergies. Presumably wheat has changed, and all wheat looks alike so nobody knows which wheat to avoid.

    This is probably not a GMO issue unless “Round-up-Ready” GMO cereals are involved to increase the dosage and number of applications.

    http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/real-reason-for-toxic-wheat-its-not-gluten/
    Pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup or other herbicides containing the deadly active ingredient glyphosate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980. It has since become routine over the past 15 years and is used as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest within the conventional farming community.
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  • I guess I am the “commercial interest stooge.”

    it’s good to see some people are taking the risks of genetic leakage, and the potential for creating herbicide proof invasive weeds, seriously!

    If weeds acquire an immunity to Round-Up (and some are), they are not going to be “herbicide-proof,” they are going to be Round-Up-proof. Some new herbicide will have to be found to which they are not immune. This has been the history of all herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, etc. The target organism, through natural selection, develops an immunity. Do we get all hysterical about it? I guess some do.

    The catch is, if a serious problem happens there is absolutely nothing you can do to put the genie back in the bottle. So even something that happens only once in 100,000 times can be a big problem. You don’t know if there can be a problem until you have an octopus on your lap.

    Well, we might as well quit doing science because some “serious problem” might happen which scientists will be incapable of undoing. Let’s just forget about regulations, precautions or scientists ability to find solutions to problems. In the meantime, we’ll just let the 9 billion people who will be alive in 2050 try to feed themselves with organic farming. Good luck with that.
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  • Toxic chemical molecules accidentally released eventually break down, over time there are fewer of them.

    Radioactive nuclei decay too, though the half-life of some is so long as to make that decay seem non-existent.

    DNA molecules, on the other hand, are capable or increasing their numbers, given suitable relatively simple and widely available precursor molecules.

    For that reason alone, genetic engineering needs to be treated with the greatest respect, because the potential for calamity is on a scale different from any conceivable chemical or nuclear mishap.

    Personally I am very much in favour of the advance of science, the quest for knowledge, and the application of new knowledge to practical – and profitable – endeavours. What bothers me is the potential for harm when a powerful and poorly understood scientific development is rushed into deployment by greed.

    Therefore I applaud this very pragmatic and sensible approach, partly because it at least recognises the potential danger inherent in the technology without then immediately declaring it to be Evil and denouncing all work in this area.

    At some point, if all goes well, I would hope to see such fail-safe limitations become legal requirements for genetic engineering deployments, including experiments that have even the remotest possibility of “leaking” into the wild, and accepted as being simple common sense, like wearing a seatbelt in a car or a crash helmet on a motorbike.

    There is of course a downside – isn’t there always – the “fail safe” can become the “killswitch”, pay the (perhaps exorbitant) license fees for an application of the Essential Ingredient, or all your food crops will die. This might be seen as merely an extension of the business model that prevents peasant farmers from retaining seeds for next years planting, so is quite likely to be attempted.

    The solution to that is not technological, but political and social, and may be painful.
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  • prietenul Jan 29, 2015 at 12:34 am

    I guess I am the “commercial interest stooge.”

    *it’s good to see some people are taking the risks of genetic leakage, and the potential for creating herbicide proof invasive weeds, seriously!

    Well, we might as well quit doing science because some “serious problem” might happen which scientists will be incapable of undoing.

    That’s the point about self-replicating organisms and introduced invasive species. They can’t be “unintroduced” after they have become an expensive danger. – Hence – Total annual costs of Japanese knotweed to the British economy is estimated at £166 million There are similar costs elsewhere.

    Well, we might as well quit doing science because some “serious problem” might happen which scientists will be incapable of undoing. Let’s just forget about regulations, precautions or scientists ability to find solutions to problems.

    That’s precisely what the agribusiness has done with antibiotics and the problem of resistance!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/opinion/antibiotics-and-the-meat-we-eat.html?_r=0
    But this is only part of the story. While the F.D.A. can see what kinds of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are coming out of livestock facilities, the agency doesn’t know enough about the antibiotics that are being fed to these animals. This is a major public health problem, because giving healthy livestock these drugs breeds superbugs that can infect people. We need to know more about the use of antibiotics in the production of our meat and poultry. The results could be a matter of life and death.

    In 2011, drugmakers sold nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics for livestock — the largest amount yet recorded and about 80 percent of all reported antibiotic sales that year. The rest was for human health care. We don’t know much more except that, rather than healing sick animals, these drugs are often fed to animals at low levels to make them grow faster and to suppress diseases that arise because they live in dangerously close quarters on top of one another’s waste.

    It may sound counterintuitive, but feeding antibiotics to livestock at low levels may do the most harm. When he accepted the Nobel Prize in 1945 for his discovery of penicillin, Alexander Fleming warned that “there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to nonlethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.” He probably could not have imagined that, one day, we would be doing this to billions of animals in factory-like facilities.
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  • Alan, it’s fascinating how you splice your comment about people taking risks seriously with my response to Roedy’s quote. How about addressing my response to you that there can be no such thing as “herbicide-proof invasive weeds,” only weeds immune to certain herbicides? Didn’t like that correction, did you, so you ignored it and chose instead my response to Roedy’s blanket indictment of the scientific process.

    Interesting recent PEW research poll at NBCnews.com: 88% of scientists said it’s safe to eat GMO foods whereas only 37% of the general public thinks so. 68% of scientists think it’s safe to eat foods grown with pesticides, only 28% of the general public.

    These and many other gaps between the scientific community and the general public are attributed by the scientists to two factors: “the public doesn’t know very much about science — closely followed by media misrepresentations of scientific findings.”

    It’s sad to see such misrepresentation taking place here at RichardDawkins.Net and it’s even sadder to see such hostility to science.
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  • Since when was scientific truth determined by polls? Asking a question like “is it safe to eat GMO foods” is the kind of overly simplistic poll question that really can’t be given any kind of intelligent answer. If the question is “have their been any proven significant dangers to humans from GMO foods” I think the answer to that is pretty clearly no. However, if the question is “do we really understand all the potential risks of GMO foods, especially how a harmful GMO once released in the biosphere could be contained?” I think the answer is also clearly no. So to me the real question is do we want to err on the side of caution or are we fine with treating the only biosphere we have as one big science experiment?

    There is also a track record to consider. How many times have we used new technologies that seemed perfectly safe only to find years or decades later completely unintended side effects? Quite clearly many times: Thalidomide, Asbestos, Fluorocarbons, over use of antibiotics, climate change caused by fossil fuels, etc. So there is nothing irrational or hippy dippy about wanting to err on the side of caution for once, especially given that unlike most of these other tragedies the potential harm of a GMO could be much more difficult to contain.

    Not to mention that there is a lot of hype and propaganda about GMOs. We hear mostly bullshit stories about Monsanto wanting to feed the world when what Monsanto wants to do is maximize profits for Monsanto. One of the most common types of modification developed by Monsanto is to make organisms that can stand far more levels of pesticides such as Roundup… which is made by… I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
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  • prietenul Jan 29, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    Alan, it’s fascinating how you splice your comment about people taking risks seriously with my response to Roedy’s quote.

    That was the point about the blasé reckless approach to leakage of Round-up Resistant genes into related crops and weeds.

    How about addressing my response to you that there can be no such thing as “herbicide-proof invasive weeds,” only weeds immune to certain herbicides?

    There are a limited number of relatively safe effective herbicides (and pesticides), so immunity in weeds (or insects) should be avoided, in the same way that generating antibiotic resistance should not be encouraged in bacteria. There are also effects of persistence in food-chains causing damage to regulatory predatory species.

    Didn’t like that correction, did you, so you ignored it and chose instead my response to Roedy’s blanket indictment of the scientific process.

    What correction ?? Roedy made a perfectly valid point about the possibility of introduced genes causing allergies or being poisonous (to people or wild-life). Vast numbers of plants related to food crops, contain chemicals which are irritant or poisonous.
    That’s not to say that these can’t be avoided by proper selection and testing.

    Interesting recent PEW research poll at NBCnews.com: 88% of scientists said it’s safe to eat GMO foods

    My comments were about the potential for accidentally creating herbicide-resistant invasive weeds.
    They had nothing to do with the edible properties of the crops.
    I quoted an example of the introduced highly destructive Japanese Knotweed which we have failed to eradicate, despite determined efforts, for over a hundred years. – and that is not even herbicide resistant!

    It’s sad to see such misrepresentation taking place here at RichardDawkins.Net and it’s even sadder to see such hostility to science.

    What “Hostility to science”? I also quoted the case of antibiotic misuse in animal feed, that illustrates the reckless pursuit of profit in the agribusiness, which is likely to cause dangerous environmental problems arising from genetic modification, as it has done with antibiotics.

    If you were to design a noxious weed, it would be strong growing, resistant to insect predators, resistant to bacterial and fungal diseases, and resistant to herbicides. Does that specification sound familiar??

    Oh! . . . . . and then you would give it to commercial people who have a track record of the reckless use of insecticides and antibiotics, who pretend that nutritional and monitory value of the crop, is the only issue to be considered, while failing to mention environmental considerations at all.

    I am not against developing GMOs, but I am very much against leaving decisions to widely introduced them, in the hands of people who have such a woeful track record on environmental safety and responsibility. – Especially ones who mount public disinformation distraction campaigns which omit key factors.

    The OP innovation of introducing some safety measures is to be applauded, as a means of benefiting from GMO development with reduced risks of environmental damage.

    Even without GMO herbicide resistance, environmental disasters have been perpetrated by people carelessly introducing new “crops” into new geographical environments which lack any natural controls on their spread.

    Opuntia stricta (hedging) and Opuntia ficus-indica (Indian fig crop) are two of note.
    http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=104
    Opuntia stricta is a cactus that can grow up to 2 metres in height and originates in central America. This spiny shrub favours habitats such as rocky slopes, river banks and urban areas. Opuntia stricta was considered to be Australia’s worst ever weed. Opuntia stricta is also invasive in South Africa, where biological options are currently being explored to control the problem.
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  • prietenul Jan 29, 2015 at 12:34 am

    Well, we might as well quit doing science because some “serious problem” might happen which scientists will be incapable of undoing. Let’s just forget about regulations, precautions or scientists ability to find solutions to problems.

    As I said:- In some cases, reproducing problem species cannot be “unintroduced”.

    Let’s just forget about regulations, precautions or scientists ability to find solutions to problems.

    I await your, or some scientists’ solution, to Australia’s Cane Toad problem!
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  • There is an 18 year track record of over 30 countries which have been using GMO crops. Not one of the apocalyptic “sky is falling” predictions about health or environmental damage has occurred anywhere. The soil is healthier because Round-Up ready crops can be sown without tilling, reducing erosion and saving organic matter in the soil. Not one human death anywhere has been attributed to ingesting GMO products. Can organic farming claim the same thing? No, and it shouldn’t have to, but it puts things into perspective. Monsanto seed patents are running out, so your frothing-at-the-mouth anti-corporation stance will just cost human lives due to starvation and malnutrition.
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  • That was the point about the blasé reckless approach to leakage of Round-up Resistant genes into related crops and weeds.

    SO WHAT? If a farmer isn’t using Round-Up, those “leaked” genes won’t be of any benefit or harm to his crop. As I stated, weeds have in the past and will in the future eventually develop resistance to any herbicide we throw at them. Thanks to science, we always come up with new herbicides.

    There are a limited number of relatively safe effective herbicides (and pesticides), so immunity in weeds (or insects) should be avoided, in the same way that generating antibiotic resistance should not be encouraged in bacteria.

    I’m glad to see you accept the scientific stance that Round-Up is a relatively safe herbicide. Yes, it is highly effective at very small doses which is why it is so popular with both farmers of GMO crops and conventional crops. The idea that farmers are “drowning” their crops in Round-Up is a fantasy. If your weeds are dead, they are dead, no need to repeat the application. But as I stated before, weeds always have developed resistance in the past to herbicides. It is only to be expected that they will become resistant to Round-Up too. That’s just natural selection. Do we say therefore farmers shouldn’t use Round-Up? Doctors should never use antibiotics? Farmers should go back to plowing their fields which will cost much more in diesel, global warming, expose the soil to wind erosion and upset the soil biology? No, one uses the tools one has available until the tools need replacing.

    What correction ?? Roedy made a perfectly valid point about the possibility of introduced genes causing allergies or being poisonous (to people or wild-life). Vast numbers of plants related to food crops, contain chemicals which are irritant or poisonous.

    Many people are allergic to peanuts, wheat, lactose, etc. Shall we ban peanuts, wheat and milk products? In Germany in 2011 , E. coli in organic bean sprouts sickened 4000 people and killed over 50. Do we ban bean sprouts? No, of course not.

    Even without GMO herbicide resistance, environmental disasters have been perpetrated by people carelessly introducing new “crops” into new geographical environments which lack any natural controls on their spread.

    Here is your anti-science bias again. Who is “carelessly” introducing new crops (why is that in italics?) into new geographical environments. Do you really envision Round-Up ready corn “invading” your front yard, clogging your lawn mower and as you flail away at it with a weed whacker, it grabs you by the ankles and devours you like a Venus fly trap? Farm crops are so fragile, they can’t survive without farmers who protect them against weeds and pests. Comparing farm crops to the Opuntia stricta is silly.

    Opposition to GMO products is simply un- and anti-scientific hysteria. The assertion that GMO crops are being introduced willy-nilly without any consideration for health or environmental effects betrays a deep mistrust/hostility to scientists and government regulators. It is already costing 100s of thousands of lives due to vitamin A deficiencies that could have been avoided. Millions of acres of farmland in Africa and elsewhere are being lost to erosion from conventional farming methods. You are killing people. Please stop it.
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  • prietenul Jan 31, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    You don’t seem to have addressed my point about the reckless track-record of the agribusiness in the use of antibiotics and pesticides.

    There is an 18 year track record of over 30 countries which have been using GMO crops. Not one of the apocalyptic “sky is falling” predictions about health or environmental damage has occurred anywhere.

    There is an 18 year record in over 30 countries (not including Russia) where no apocalyptic meteors have fallen out of the sky, but that does not mean there are no long term risks.

    DDT was also used from 1939 with claims it was harmless to people, pets, crops etc. until it was recognised as dangerous and persistent and banned in 1972. http://people.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/pest/pest1.html

    The risks of creating invasive species through leaked genes, which I described, are quite real, as is illustrated by the multitude of introduced invasive species, causing massive and expensive problems all over the world.

    Likewise, any GMO chemical attacks on insect pests, are likely to aafect beneficial insects and predators of insects higher up the food chain.

    Each GMO organism needs to have its individual effects assessed and tested.
    Blanket bland assurances are worthless nonsense, as are “It cannot happen because so far we have stayed lucky”, assessments.

    The soil is healthier because Round-Up ready crops can be sown without tilling, reducing erosion and saving organic matter in the soil.

    Direct drilling of cereal crops without ploughing, has been going on for 50years+. It has nothing to do with GMO.
    I first saw it used at a leading university agricultural college experimental farm in the 1960s.
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  • prietenul Jan 31, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    SO WHAT? If a farmer isn’t using Round-Up, those “leaked” genes won’t be of any benefit or harm to his crop. As I stated, weeds have in the past and will in the future eventually develop resistance to any herbicide we throw at them. Thanks to science, we always come up with new herbicides.

    This is pure wish-thinking which has learned nothing from the anti-biotic misuse situation.

    Many people are allergic to peanuts, wheat, lactose, etc. Shall we ban peanuts, wheat and milk products?

    We should label them, so those who are affected can choose to avoid them.

    In Germany in 2011 , E. coli in organic bean sprouts sickened 4000 people and killed over 50. Do we ban bean sprouts? No, of course not.

    That is just silly! We should ban the unhygenic processing and packaging.

    Here is your anti-science bias again.

    Oh dear! Anti-recklesness and concern for safety based on an understanding of the subject is “anti-science”!
    Apparently failing to applaud reckless innovations is “anti-science”! – at least according to commercial interests with a long history of deception.

    Who is “carelessly” introducing new crops (why is that in italics?) into new geographical environments.

    Thousands of people have done so – read the history.

    Do you really envision Round-Up ready corn “invading” your front yard, clogging your lawn mower and as you flail away at it with a weed whacker, it grabs you by the ankles and devours you like a Venus fly trap?

    No! That is a comical caricature. But I can easily envisage related weed grasses picking up leaked GM genes and starting some new species with herbicide or insect resistance, with one of them becoming an invasive weed with NO NATURAL ECOLOGICAL CONTROLS. – Or some GM insect-toxic flowering plant leaking genes killing essential pollinators – as some insecticides do.

    and the total costs of introduced weeds are estimated at around $27 billion annually – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasive_species_in_the_United_States#Economic_impacts_of_invasive_species

    Farm crops are so fragile, they can’t survive without farmers who protect them against weeds and pests.

    Really? Apparently nobody told the Oilseed rape, growing in hedgerows.

    Comparing farm crops to the Opuntia stricta is silly.

    Really? I have already explained and linked that O. sticta and O. ficus indica, were introduced as farm hedges to manage livestock, and as orchards growing prickly pears known as “Indian Figs”!

    In what sense were these not “farm crops” which escaped and became invasive pest species?
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  • prietenul Jan 31, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Farm crops are so fragile, they can’t survive without farmers who protect them against weeds and pests.
    Comparing farm crops to the Opuntia stricta is silly.

    http://homeguides.sfgate.com/grow-cactus-fruit-36344.html

    The prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.) is the source for the commercially produced cactus fruit commonly called tuna or Indian fig. Indian figs are the only reliable cactus fruit crop field grown in the United States.
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  • Direct drilling of cereal crops without ploughing, has been going on for 50years+. It has nothing to do with GMO. I first saw it used at a leading university agricultural college experimental farm in the 1960s.

    But it didn’t catch on in conventional farming right away! The biggest obstacle to minimum tillage is weeds. You have to use herbicides to kill the weeds. Prior to Round-Up, farmers wishing to minimum till had to apply herbicides to the weed plants prior to crop sprouting so that they wouldn’t kill their crop along with the weeds. Once the crop sprouted, any weed seeds that were in the ground also sprouted, resulting in competition with the crop (reduced yields) and often requiring reapplication of weed-specific herbicides. Round-Up ready GMO crops allow for the SPROUTED weeds to be killed while leaving the sprouted crop itself unharmed. That is why minimum tillage is much more widespread now. Needless to say, organic farmers cannot use minimum tillage because they are not allowed to use chemical herbicides. Some organic farmers plow/till their fields several times in one year! Now, in fairness, they do other things to maintain soil fertility, but those measures are more expensive and time consuming than an application of Round-Up. You and I can afford to pay those prices for organic products, but what about the rest of the world’s population? Let them eat cake, I guess you’d say.

    Let’s see if we can bring this discussion to a close by examining our areas of agreement and disagreement.

    Agreement: the GMO crops on the market today pose no known health risk.
    Disagreement: I feel we have an 18 year track record which is sufficient to establish GMO safety. You feel 18 years is too short, so we can’t know the long-term effects of it, so we better not try it.

    Agreement: Round-Up is an effective and safe herbicide, but weeds are developing an immunity to it.
    Disagreement: I feel there are significant benefits to farmers who can work less, to soil fertility through minimum tillage, and to consumers who can pay less for food. Eventual weed resistance to Round-Up is to be expected and new herbicides will be developed. You feel since the weeds will develop an immunity to Round-Up in the future, we shouldn’t use Round-Up ready GMO seed now.

    Agreement?: 100s of thousands of people in rice-eating Southeast Asia are dying right now from vitamin A deficiencies. GMO yellow rice seed could have replaced the white rice they were growing and eating and saved their lives. Anti-GMO hysteria has prevented the use of this yellow rice. Anti-GMO hysteria is killing people.
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  • Agreement: Round-Up is an effective and safe herbicide, but weeds are developing an immunity to it.

    I know it is safe for the operator to use – I have been using it for years – but avoid using it on food crops. Long term ecological effects are still uncertain.

    Disagreement: I feel there are significant benefits to farmers who can work less, to soil fertility through minimum tillage, and to consumers who can pay less for food. Eventual weed resistance to Round-Up is to be expected and new herbicides will be developed. You feel since the weeds will develop an immunity to Round-Up in the future, we shouldn’t use Round-Up ready GMO seed now.

    As with antibiotics, there is no guarantee science will pull rabbits out of hats when foolish people undermine existing benefits as has been done with antibiotics. Weeds with resistance, are much more likely to appear quickly, if genes for resistance are leaked into them from related crops.

    Agreement?: 100s of thousands of people in rice-eating Southeast Asia are dying right now from vitamin A deficiencies. GMO yellow rice seed could have replaced the white rice they were growing and eating and saved their lives.

    I have not said I am against GMO per-se – just against the reckless rush to launch it into the environment by some commercial interests.

    Anti-GMO hysteria has prevented the use of this yellow rice. Anti-GMO hysteria is killing people.

    There are “green hippies” who do not know what they are shouting about, but the pretence by the media and commercial interests, that all environmental scientists and campaigners are “just hippies”, is just dishonest.

    There are other crops which produce vitamin A, so the local benefits of this are uncertain.

    There is also the factor that much commercial agriculture – (replacing subsistence farming) produces crops for export – not for feeding the locals.

    prietenul Feb 2, 2015 at 4:54 am – SHOCK OF SHOCKS! THIS JUST IN! The most effective way to deal with Round-Up resistant weeds….
    (drumroll, drumroll, drumroll)
    Plow them under.

    Anyone done any studies on how this will work on Couch grass (Agropyron repens)?
    Couch is one of the most difficult weeds to control on cultivated fields. Best control will be achieved by herbicides such as glyphosate applied when the grass is actively growing. This can be difficult near and around crops post-emergence.

    New aerial shoots emerge in autumn and spring rising from tips of the underground creeping stems and from small buds distributed along their length. These buds remain dormant when the tip is growing strong but if growth is interrupted or the above ground stem damaged by cultivation these buds can rapidly produce new aerial shoots. The leafy new shoots then generate new underground stems with more bulbs.
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  • There are other crops which produce vitamin A, so the local benefits of this are uncertain. There is also the factor that much commercial agriculture – (replacing subsistence farming) produces crops for export – not for feeding the locals.

    Yellow or Golden Rice was developed by two university professors, Dr. Ingo Potrykus and Dr. Peter Beyer. They developed this rice with beta-carotene genes specifically to alleviate vitamin A deficiencies in countries where rice is the primary staple food. According to Wikipedia, vitamin A deficiency in these areas kill an estimated 670,000 children under the age of 5 every year. Unfortunately, left-wing “angels of death” have attacked research centers in the Philippines, preventing its FREE distribution there. A Chinese Golden Rice research study, which was proving highly successful in alleviating vitamin A deficiencies among school children, was stopped when left-wing anti-GMO activists put out the word “Americans are experimenting on the Chinese.” 670,000 children are dying every year, and apparently all you can say is: Let them eat carrot cake.

    Couch grass is a tough weed which responds very well to (is killed by) Round-Up. That would be a tough nut to crack if it develops resistance to Glyphosate.
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  • prietenul Feb 2, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    A Chinese Golden Rice research study, which was proving highly successful in alleviating vitamin A deficiencies among school children, was stopped when left-wing anti-GMO activists put out the word “Americans are experimenting on the Chinese.”

    As I said, I am not against GMO per se, and the Golden rice could be a worthwhile project.

    “Americans are experimenting on the Chinese.”

    While this may be wrong, the suspicion is understandable, in the context of dangerous commercial products unleashed into the third-world by western corporations, and the contracting out of dangerous work to areas devoid of health and safety regulations. Africa, the world’s ‘septic tank’ – http://www.petroleumworld.com/story06092609.htm

    There is also the factor that much commercial agriculture – (replacing subsistence farming) produces crops for export – not for feeding the locals.

    Nontraditional Crop Production in Africa for Exporthttps://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-086.html

    Couch grass is a tough weed which responds very well to (is killed by) Round-Up. That would be a tough nut to crack if it develops resistance to Glyphosate.

    Yep! I use Glyphosate for killing it on paths, patios, and rough areas.
    It is the type of cereal related species, where leaked GMO herbicide resistant genes would be a serious problem. It would only require a tiny percentage of plants becoming self replicating super-weeds, to present problems on a similar scale to some of the nastier invasive species.
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  • It is the type of cereal related species, where leaked GMO herbicide resistant genes would be a serious problem. It would only require a tiny percentage of plants becoming self replicating super-weeds, to present problems on a similar scale to some of the nastier invasive species.

    I think this is another area of disagreement. Genes can’t “leak” to unrelated species. Couch grass may be a grass, but I doubt it is closely related to wheat, soy beans or corn. That is why scientists have to use a bacteria to “splice” a gene into an unrelated organism. Weeds can develop immunity to herbicides through natural selection which is not “leaking.” The weed that has done precisely that is a type of amaranth which is becoming a problem across the American South. The recommended treatment for dealing with it is plowing.
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