Archive for January, 2013


10 January 2013. Source: Science Daily

Research Revisiting the Safety of GM Weevil-Resistant Peas in Mice Contradicts Previous Risk Assessment Findings

Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna have conducted feeding trials with mice to investigate the allergenicity of genetically modified (GM) weevil-resistant peas. Development of the peas was discontinued in 2005 when a risk assessment conducted by the CSIRO and Australian National University showed negative reactions in mice to the peas (Prescott et al 2005).

Field peas are an important rotation crop, which can be devastated by pea weevil (Bruchus pisorum) infestation. Unlike peas, beans are not attacked by pea weevils as they contain a protein called α-amylase inhibitor (αAI) that causes the weevils feeding on beans to starve before they cause any damage.

The MedUni Vienna-team investigated immune responses in mice fed several varieties of beans, non-transgenic peas and the transgenic peas, expressing the bean or the transgenic versions of the α-amylase inhibitor. The mice showed similar levels of immune response no matter which food they consumed.

Dr. Michelle Epstein, the lead researcher said, “We observed that the immune response in mice was the same no matter whether the inhibitor came from beans, where it naturally occurs, or from peas genetically modified to express the inhibitor and even in non-transgenic peas.” “These results demonstrate that αAI transgenic peas are no more allergenic than beans or non-transgenic peas in mice” Dr. Epstein added.

The Prescott study is regularly cited by those on both sides of the GM debate as an example of either the inherent dangers of genetically modified foods or the effectiveness of pre-market studies in identifying potential risk factors. Rodent studies for genetically modified organism (GMO) safety have recently been in the news. Seralini et al. showed untoward effects in rats fed GM corn but these studies were fraught with problems and add to the controversy of using rodents to study GMO safety (see EFSA report).

“The study is important because it illustrates the significance of repeating experiments in independent laboratories” Dr. Epstein said. “It is also vital that investigators are aware of potential unexpected crossreactive allergic responses upon the consumption of plant products, as we found in the non-transgenic peas.” Dr. Epstein questions the utility of rodents for evaluating biotech crops and points out that the MUV results highlight the importance of a careful case-by-case evaluation of GM crops, and the role science can play in decision-making around the introduction of GMOs into the food system.

This research was conducted at the Medical University of Vienna as part of the European Commission Framework 7-funded GMSAFOOD project.



Threats prompt GM rethink

Source: The Land, by Colin Bettles

12 December, 2012

LITIGATION threats are forcing biotechnology campaigner Bill Crabtree to rethink his approach to the controversial topic, and call for greater backing and public advocacy from leading farm lobby groups.

Mr Crabtree is one of several individuals and organisations to have received defamation threats from the Safe Food Foundation (SFF) and scientist Dr Judy Carman in recent months.

The threats are in relation to varying claims, seeking differing levels of financial damages and potential legal costs, however, each case is underpinned by escalating common conflict between the different camps over genetically modified (GM) cropping technology.

In 2005, the West Australian government funded $92,000 to the Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER) in Adelaide to conduct animal feeding trials of GM canola, headed by Dr Carman.

Dr Carman has been criticised by Mr Crabtree and other outspoken biotechnology campaigners for failing to publicly report or publish the results of the IHER study in peer reviewed scientific journals, despite repeated requests.

The issue flared up again in September when Dr Carman was linked to claims GM wheat may cause a strain of liver damage that especially endangers the lives of young children.

The claims were contained in a media statement from the SFF which quoted Dr Carman as an expert scientific opinion.

The SFF and its director Scott Kinnear are also central to another high profile anti-GM campaign, over the alleged contamination of Kojonup organic farmer Steve Marsh’s wheat crop from GM canola growing on the farm of his neighbours, Mick and Zanthe Baxter.

Mr Marsh is being represented in his legal challenge by Slater and Gordon Lawyers with backing from Mr Kinnear’s organisation and other anti-GM groups.

Speaking to Fairfax Agricultural Media, Mr Kinnear confirmed having sent letters threatening defamation against various groups and individuals.

But he said, “I do not have any comment as to the precise nature of who and what they contained”.

For the complete article, see:



SA says no to GM until 2019

Thursday, 20 December 2012

THE South Australian government has taken a tough stance on genetically modified crops by banning farmers from growing them for the next seven years.

State Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Gail Gago said while SA had always been against growing GM crops, the federal government recently reviewed its Gene Technology Act and asked states with GM moratoria that had not been reviewed in the last three years to commit to reviewing them by the end of 2014.

She said a review would not take place because allowing GM crops to be grown would have a negative impact on the marketing of the state’s food and wine in key export destinations around the world.

SA‘s initial four-year prohibition was extended in 2008 over concerns non-GM production could be altered, with the ban in place until September 1, 2019.

Gago said the GM ban would not be lifted unless there were compelling reasons to do so.

“I have written to the federal government and told them that we will not be doing this [review],” she said.

“South Australia’s clean green food bowl gives us a competitive edge in the market.

“Our non-GM crops attract greater market prices and the exceptional quality of SA’s food bowl is synonymous with the state.

“We will not be doing anything to jeopardise this.”

Gago said community and market consultation would be listened to carefully to guide the future of GM in the state.

“There also continues to be concerns within the community about the long-term impacts of genetically modified foods and we are listening to these concerns,” she said.

“South Australia remains firmly committed to maintaining its GM bans.”



The US Food and Drug Administration has released its Draft Environmental Assessment for a GM variety of salmon for a public comment period. The FDA assessment found the GM salmon had “no significant impact” on the environment.

The public comment period closes on 25 February 2013.


Food and Drug Administration

Draft Environmental Assessment and Preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact Concerning a Genetically Engineered Atlantic Salmon; Availability

AGENCY: Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA, the Agency) is announcing the availability for public comment of the Agency’s draft environmental assessment (EA) of the proposed conditions of use specified in materials submitted by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc., in support of a new animal drug application (NADA) concerning a genetically engineered (GE) Atlantic salmon. Also available for comment is the Agency’s preliminary finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for those specific conditions of use.

DATES: Submit either electronic or written comments on the Agency’s draft EA and preliminary FONSI by February 25, 2013.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Notice is given that a draft EA prepared by FDA in support of an NADA associated with AQUADVANTAGE Salmon, a GE Atlantic salmon containing the opAFP– GHc2 recombinant DNA construct is being made available for public comment. FDA is also making available for comment the Agency’s preliminary FONSI for those specific conditions of use. In the event of an approval of the application, the approval would only allow AQUADVANTAGE Salmon to be produced and grown-out in the physically contained freshwater culture facilities specified in the sponsor’s NADA.

To encourage public participation consistent with regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1501.4(b)), the Agency is placing the draft EA and the preliminary FONSI that are the subject of this notice on public display at the Division of Dockets Management (see DATES and ADDRESSES) for public review and comment for 60 days.

Dated: December 20, 2012.