Preface by Cathy Geibel TLB writer/reporter
It’s a battle that never seems to end. We gain ground in GMO labeling and they seem to come up with a way around it. Big business never stops when profits are at risk. Whereas some companies have figured out that there IS money in non-GMO food production others continue to resist the will of the people. What they HAVE noticed is that we are voting with our dollars and buying more non-GMO labeled foods. So now they are going to mislead us with their labeling? My advice is to continue to educate ourselves with labeling practices and food origins and buy as local as possible. There are many farms and companies with integrity and it is up to us to support them in their success whenever and wherever possible. (CG)
By Isabelle Z.
Food companies continue to find ways to deceive their customers – the food-buying public – as they aim to maximize their profits. In the latest example, one company has found a way to pass off genetically engineered crops as “non-GMO.”
How can they get away with such deception? It all comes down to semantics. A San Diego company called Cibus is marketing a genome-edited, herbicide-resistant oilseed rape as non-genetically modified, on the grounds that only a few nucleotides in the existing genes of the plant were changed. They argue that because genes have not been inserted from other plants or other types of organisms, the classification is appropriate.
American regulators have allowed this to happen, designating the oilseed rape from Cibus as mutagenesis rather than genetic modification. This eliminates the need for the tremendous costs in time and money that the company would need to invest in order to get regulatory approval if it actually were to be labeled a GM organism. It can take more than five years and tens of millions of dollars to gain GM organism approval in the U.S.
The European Commission, meanwhile, has not yet taken an official stance on genome-edited crops, but a number of political groups in Europe are pushing for a hard line. Right now, an organism is usually considered to be GM in Europe if its genes have been changed in ways that could not have occurred naturally. By this definition, edited crops could fall under the GM classification.
Rothamsted Research scientist Huw Jones said: “If Europe regulates genome-edited organisms in the same way it does GM organisms, it will kill the technology here for all except the biotech companies working with profitable traits in the major crops.”
Cibus uses a process known as RTDS
The gene-editing technology Cibus uses is known as Rapid Trait Development System (RTDS), which is a type of mutagenesis technology.
Cibus claims that RTDS is an “all natural” method that does not pose any of the environmental or health risks that are associated with transgenic breeding. Nevertheless, RTDS alters a genome in a way that simply wouldn’t occur naturally in the course of breeding or genetic recombination. Studies are still needed to show the extent and frequency of any off-target effects that the process could have.
Genome editing enables scientists to quickly and precisely change or delete certain genes and bring in useful traits. Predictably, however, in the case of Cibus, it’s all about the bottom line. While they could have made edits that make the plant’s oil more nutritious, for example, they have instead opted for edits that enable farmers to spray more weedkiller over the crops.
Jones said: “I don’t think it’s too extreme to say that the way that the technology will be used for plant breeding in the future will hinge on how is regulated.”
Another benefit of escaping the GM classification is avoiding the stigma that is rightfully attached to GM foods. Consumer backlash is growing, as the dangers of GM food are gaining publicity, and many areas are starting to institute labeling requirements so that consumers know which products to avoid.
Food deception is a common practice
This is far from the only example of companies using misleading practices when it comes to the content of their foods. Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, has written an entire book about the topic after testing a number of common foods, spices and supplements in his cutting-edge lab for the presence of heavy metals and other toxins. The book, Food Forensics, is a must-read for health-conscious consumers. In addition, the Food Revolution Summit provides information and research about food and pesticides.
We simply cannot trust what companies want us to believe about the contents of their food. Growing your own food is one way to know for sure what you are eating, and taking the time to research the foods you buy from independent sources cannot help give you that extra peace of mind that you’re not ingesting any harmful substances.
Other articles by the author
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