GMOs and DNA changing viruses and bacteria

JB Jo Booth Public Seen by 10

From the Live Stream: :purple_heart: What are your policies on Genetic modification. re: viruses and bacteria can change your dna, but our health care dept cant change it back to the original code.


Tane Harre Sun 16 Jul 2017 9:41AM

I don't think we have one. What do you think our policy should be?


Josh Rich Sun 16 Jul 2017 7:45PM

As a plant biologist or nearly any biologist position would be that GM is fine and has no reason to be banned.


Suzie Dawson Mon 17 Jul 2017 7:10AM

What about the cross contamination of organic crops by GM crops? Not to mention the bee issue...


IP Jo Booth Sun 16 Jul 2017 10:52PM

What about organisms like viruses and bacteria - engineering them like the OP said - what happens when we create a monster? Should labs be regulated and subject to oversight? Are they already?


Tane Harre Mon 17 Jul 2017 9:27AM

There is nothing wrong with genetic modification in my view. We have used it extensively throughout history to improve our food and living conditions. As far as I know (and there will be an exception) all the crops and animals that we eat today, and many that we do not, have been through a process of genetic modification. Look at the history of broccoli for instance.

Where I do have problems is with the patenting of genetic modifications of food and unrestricted experimentation with genetic code.

The former I find stupid. The usual excuse is given as a benefit to the world and yet there is little benefit to the farmer or consumer in saying you are unable to grow food from the seeds of your crop. It is also entirely possible that we could come up with a better form of crop that solves a problem such as golden rice, yet it completely misses the point that the solution to that problem (vitamin A deficiency) already exists. There is enough food. We just don't provide it for economic reasons.

The unrestricted modification of genetic code is illegal in most countries and should continue to be. My reasoning on this is based on the introduction of invasive species into the NZ environment. Although these plants fulfilled a need, the outcome of their introduction was unseen and in many case's could not be calculated. In my view, unrestricted modification, accentuates this problem.


Josh Rich Mon 17 Jul 2017 8:06PM

@ipjobooth Where do you think modern insulin comes from? :P
We've been doing this for a while in the medical world. It's not as scary as some think :)

@suziedawson cross contamination happens on a very low frequency and (depending on what you're growing) farmers use new seeds each round anyway. Whats the bee issue?

My view on patenting GM crops is similar to how we deal with pharmaceuticals. Along the lines of 10-15 years commercial release and then generics can be made. This would still allow large funds to create crops while only giving an monopoly on that new plant for a decade.

@taneharre There is always risk when you use new anything. But where we are at now is essentially adding 1 new trait to plants which usually adds a chemical or resistance to a chemical. They are currently made for farmers. New varieties go through about 15-20 years of testing and tweaking along with a range of health studies before the general population gets a hold of it.

This is a subject I've been involved in for a while now, I got to study it partially at uni! :)


Bruce King Tue 18 Jul 2017 12:36AM

Quoting Josh Rich: "Where do you think modern insulin comes from? :P"

Josh, can you comment on this from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin ?
"Synthetic insulin can trigger adverse effects, so some people with diabetes rely on animal-source insulin.[72]", where [72] is http://www.iddt.org/diabetic-commonsense/the-great-debate-natural-animal-or-artificial-human-insulin


Tane Harre Tue 18 Jul 2017 3:33AM

The bee issue.

Yes, there is always a risk when trying new things. That risk is somewhat riskier when you are dealing with things essential to human life like food (or bees for that matter).

As for chemical resistant crops, I will assume you are referring to pesticide resistant crops (although maybe you mean salt resistant crops?) such as 'Roundup Ready'. There are a number of problems with these crops all the way from seed contamination to super weeds. I assume you are aware of these risks but if you aren't read here for a brief overview(Yes, I wouldn't trust the UCSUSA. It is just a nice synopsis of the concerns. I am sure you are able to expand on the points yourself).

I would certainly hope they go through large amounts of studies. The problem is that those studies are by necessity small scale. Going from ten acres to millions of acres changes the possibilities.

I note you haven't mentioned my assertion that there are other ways of solving the problems GMO's are trying to solve (eg; hunger, vitamin deficiency,...) without resorting to GMO's.


Dammit, don't you hate it when you get to the end of saying something and then realise that the original question was about virus's and bacteria changing our DNA. Not GMO crops solely. Sorry, sidetracked. :)


Bruce King Mon 17 Jul 2017 11:56PM

As background to the GMO controversy, a couple of excerpts from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism#Controversy, on a) areas of controversy, and b) legal status by country:

"The key areas of controversy related to GMO food are whether GM food should be labeled, the role of government regulators, the effect of GM crops on health and the environment, the effect on pesticide resistance, the impact of GM crops for farmers, and the role of GM crops in feeding the world population. In 2014, sales of products that had been labeled as non-GMO grew 30 percent to $1.1 billion."

"The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely differing degrees of regulation."


Bruce King Tue 18 Jul 2017 12:12AM

Some background on GMO status, specific to NZ:

1) Wikipedia page on the issue (overview, not much detail): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_engineering_in_New_Zealand

An ongoing 10-year trial of growing GMO brassica (mustard family vegetables) in NZ, begun in 2009, has generated some controversy:

"Brassica species have been approved by ERMA for a ten-year field trial in Canterbury. The conditions that were set for the trial were breached and lobbyists called for an end to the trial due to concerns for safety to the public and for maintaining an export market that was free of GE contamination.[2]"
[2] is http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/801527/GE-activists-call-for-trials-to-be-ended

2) More on current status of GMO foods in NZ:
"To date, no fresh produce (fruit, vegetables, meat or milk) originating in New Zealand is genetically modified. Some processed foods may, however, contain genetically modified ingredients sourced from overseas (eg, soy or corn flour). These ingredients must be assessed for safety by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) before they can be used in New Zealand, and the final food product must comply with the labelling laws."
Source is Ministry for the Environment: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/hazards/gm-nz-approach-jun04/genetic-modification-new-zealand

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