Genetically modified organisms are a terrifying development when we know they exist, but there’s a new system of creating GMOs that’s getting a complete pass. By fiat, our governments are allowing a process that produces genetically modified ‘foods’ for sale with absolutely no oversight. They can be called natural, or simply not labeled. Nothing, absolutely nothing, interferes with their introduction into the food supply.
By: Heidi Stevenson
Genetic engineering means changing the genetic material of a living plant, fungus, or animal. What we’ve been fighting is merely one type, recombinant DNA, in which the gene from one species is transplanted into another. But it isn’t the only way to change genes. Another technique has been developed and patented, technically called oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis (ODM), but branded Rapid Transit Development System (RTDS) by Cibus, of San Diego, California.
A type of rapeseed has already been developed using this technique. The UK’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), a part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), reviewed this product back in 2011 and concluded:
ACRE considers that herbicide tolerant (HT) oilseed rape plants produced by Cibus LLC have been developed using a form of mutagenesis. It considers that this technique does not involve the use of recombinant nucleic acid molecules. Consequently, the HT oilseed rape plants could be excluded from the GMO Deliberate Release legislation in accordance with Annex 1B of Directive 2001/18/EC.
In other words, an organism that’s been genetically mutated by ODM/RTDS is not being treated by the government as a genetically modified organism! This technique is sliding around the concerns of genetically engineered plants and animals by using a technique different from recombinant DNA.
New Zealand has taken an equivalent stance. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) told Cibus back in 2004 that they could go ahead with no need to go through an approval process and absolutely no oversight!
Cibus has filed for patents from the EU on several crops, including:
- Glyphosate-tolerant crops, including corn, wheat, rice, barley, soybean, cotton, sugarbeet, oilseed rape, canola, flax, sunflower, potato, tobacco, tomato, alfalfa, poplar, pine, eucalyptus, apple, lettuce, peas, lentils, grape, turf grasses and Brassica species (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.).
- Sulfonylurea herbicide-tolerant canola/rapeseed.
These crops are being sold as natural! They are even claiming that these genetically engineered crops were developed using a technique that’s been in use since World War II, which is obviously untrue.
What Is Oligonucleotide-Directed Mutagenesis?
First, let’s define some terms:
- Nucleotide: The basic structural unit of DNA.
- Oligonucleotide: A molecule that contains a small group of nucleotides. Therefore, an oligonucleotide is a small string of the units that make up DNA.
- Mutagenesis: Something that can cause a mutation.
ODM involves the use of synthetic oligonucleotides. They call this molecule a Gene Repair Oligonucleotide (GRON). It contains the desired genetic change, which consists of a single nucleotide. This chain of nucleotides is inserted into the DNA of an organism. However, it’s done in such a way that the organism sees an error. So, the organism’s own DNA repair system is enlisted to fix the error. In that error-repairing process, the genetic change is affixed into the organism’s DNA.
How does this actually happen? In fact, no one knows! The technique works, but the Senior Vice President of Cibus, Peter Beetham, has admitted that the means by which the repair occurs is “elusive”. The Institute of Science in Society tells us:
Mismatch repair is ordinarily used by the cell following mistakes in DNA replication or recombination as well as in DNA damage. It relies on enzymes that recognise the mismatch by comparing the strand to a template strand’s homologous region … after which the DNA mismatched sequence is cleaved out, the correct bases synthesised and the DNA re-ligated back together. This is a highly complex process essential to the integrity of the DNA and the cell. However, this remains a speculation, and others have suggested that homologous recombination, transcription as well as DNA replication processes are involved.
So, this absolutely critical process is, essentially, a mystery. Whether it could create serious damage to DNA is unknown. Whether it might affect other parts of the DNA is unknown. Whether it has the potential of causing changes that might prove harmful to anyone who eats the resultant produce is unknown! In other words, the only thing that’s known about this process is that the desired change is made in a species. Whether other changes are made or that change might prove harmful in some as-yet unknown way is unknown.
Yet, our governing agencies have seen fit to not only rubber stamp the ODM process, but to give it a complete pass. Cibus is allowed to sell obviously genetically engineered products as “natural”. They are not required to submit to any oversight of any sort. They can churn out stuff with no labeling of any sort and leave the public entirely in the dark about the fact that they are, indeed, eating genetically engineered foods that haven’t even undergone the pathetically limited oversight of governmental agencies for GMOs produced by Monsanto and other corporations.
You thought that Monsanto was scary? Welcome to Cibus, Monsanto on steroids!
- Beware the Changing Face of Genetic Modification; Institute of Science in Society.
- What Is RTDS?; Cibus.
- Rapid Trait Development System in Plants; Cibus.
- Site-directed mutagenesis; Biochemistry Journal; P Carter. PMCID: PMC1146940
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