Capitol Corridor
University of California
Capitol Corridor

Posts Tagged: genetically modified organism

'Non-GMO' milk label more about marketing, says UCCE expert

Clover Stornetta Farms of Petaluma will be adding non-GMO certification to its conventional milk in early 2017. The move upset organic and conventional farmers, as well as a few agriculture scientists, reported Tara Duggan in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The non-GMO designation means the milk comes from dairy cows who have been raised with no genetically engineered corn, soy or other products in their diets. 

The article featured comments from Alison Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Davis. She said non-GMO animal feed crops have a larger ecological impact than genetically engineered versions because of their decreased resistance to disease and pests, and lower yields.

“We are really talking marketing here — developing a product line to differentiate it from a product that already does not contain GMOs,” she said. “As a company they of course can develop whatever products they want and if they see a profitable market — then it is a good business decision.”

Van Eenennaam said she is concerned that suggesting non-GMO milk is a safer or more environmentally sound product could have a chilling effect on agricultural science advances necessary to feed a world population set to hit 9 billion by 2050.

“We can keep taking technologies away from farmers by pandering to fearmongering around safe technologies — at the end of the day it just increases the environmental footprint of a glass of milk with no food safety benefit," she said.

DNA from genetically engineered feed is not passed to milk or meat, according to research by UCCE specialist Alison Van Eenennaam.
Posted on Friday, September 23, 2016 at 9:20 AM

Chinese scientists use biotechnology to develop tiny pig pets

When pot-bellied pigs grow larger than expected, they often cease to be good pets. A Chinese firm is using biotechnology to create pigs that weigh in no heavier than 33 pounds. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Chinese biotechnology firm BGI believes the diminutive pigs they developed with genetic engineering will make great pets and plans to sell them for $1,600 each, reported Julie Makinen in the Los Angeles Times. The pigs' genetic material was edited in way that disabled a copy of the growth hormone receptor gene so that cells don't get a signal to grow.

In the story, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources expert expressed disappointment in the company's plan to market mini pigs as pets. Alison Van Eenennaam, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, said the company's decision reflects the "global regulatory gridlock" around genetically engineered food animals.

"Genome editing is a powerful technology that can be used for many beneficial applications … such as producing disease-resistant animals and other things that would have real benefits for the sustainability of food production," she said. 

Americans seem to be open to genetically engineered pets. A glowing fish created in Singapore by inserting jellyfish and sea anemone genes into zebrafish eggs has been accepted by many U.S. consumers.

"People are happy to have them in their aquarium, but it's when it's on their dinner plat that they have a different attitude," Van Eenennaam said.

Scientists used different processes in creating glowing fish and miniature swine. With the fish, genes from other organisms were inserted into the DNA. The mini pigs were made by cutting tidbits of DNA out of the pig genome. According to the article, Van Eenennaam believes gene editing animals is no different from traditional selective breeding. Furthermore, she said the FDA's unwillingness to approved genetically engineered food animals is impeding the technology. Companies are deterred from investing in research by the uncertainty.

"(There's too much financial risk) if you go to all the effort of making an animal and it's unclear whether you're going to be able to market it," Van Eenennaam said.

Posted on Monday, October 19, 2015 at 2:13 PM

Humboldt County voters to weigh in on GMOs

On Nov. 3, Humboldt County residents will vote on Measure P, which would ban GMOs in the county if it passes. Above, cows on an organic farm. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.)
Voters in Humboldt County will decide on Nov. 3 whether to ban genetically modified organisms - animals and plants - within the county boundaries. The North Coast Journal ran a lengthy analysis of the proposed ordinance, Measure P, with arguments from advocates for and against its passage. Reporter Heidi Walters also sought comment from UC Cooperative Extension.

Alison Van Eenennaam, UCCE specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, said there are thousands of scientific studies that have shown that GMOs are not dangerous. Van Eenannaam herself published a review in September that examined 30 years of livestock-feeding studies that represent more than 100 billion animals. She concluded that the performance and health of food-producing animals consuming genetically engineered feed has been comparable to that of animals consuming non-GE feed.

Van Eenennaam cautioned the North Coast Journal reporter that "you can't just say 'GE is safe.'"

"That's too broad," she said. "That's like saying 'electricity is safe.' People who've been in the electric chair would disagree."

One can't say that traditional breeding is "safe," either. People have been breeding organisms to select for specific traits, and creating hybrids by crossing two species (such as a horse and donkey to get a mule) for thousands of years, the article said.

In San Luis Obispo County, where a measure banning GMOs failed in 2004, organic farmers are using buffers and communication with neighbors to allow farmers who use GMOs to coexist with non-GMO farmers.

"Coexistence is not a new idea,"said Mary Bianchi, director of SLO County UCCE. But it's been working. And, she says, nobody has pushed for a GMO-ban in San Luis Obispo County since.

The director of UC Cooperative Extension in Humboldt County, Yana Valachovic, said she and her office haven't taken a side in the debate over the Humboldt County measure.

She said she believes the issue boils down to one question: "Are we more concerned about the risks or more hopeful of the opportunities?"

Posted on Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Unfounded fear of GMOs keeps good food out of the marketplace

The genetically modified Flavor Saver tomato was a marketplace flop.
Food created through genetic engineering and conventional breeding are safe and they deserve equal treatment in the marketplace, a UC Berkeley biotechnology expert told reporter Lisa Krieger of the San Jose Mercury News.

Peggy G. Lemaux, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department Plant and Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley, says fear of the unknown can stop genetic engineering from helping consumers. She genetically engineered wheat to produce grain that is less allergenic and might be better tolerated by people with wheat allergies. Because of anti-genetic-engineering sentiment, she said, companies that could take it to market did not embrace it.

"No one is interested in moving it to the marketplace," Lemaux said.

The Mercury News article was centered on Proposition 37, an initiative on California's November ballot that, if passed, will require labeling on genetically engineered food.

Posted on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 9:01 AM

Transgenic rice? Not any time soon

Colusa County rice, which has at least three severe weed species.
Although 10 years have passed since the first regulatory approval of genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant rice, no transgenic rice is grown commercially, either in California or nationwide.

In contrast, genetically modified crops such as soy, corn and cotton have received widespread adoption by U.S. farmers.

Debate continues over whether genetically modified rice would be a plus or minus for the environment. While herbicide-tolerant varieties could reduce herbicide applications overall — they could also contribute to herbicide resistance in weedy rice.

For the time being, however, market considerations have trumped the debate over environmental costs and benefits.

A recent article in California Agriculture featured a literature review and extensive interviews with California rice growers explaining why.

“Although several studies suggest that transgenic rice would benefit California rice growers — particularly the herbicide-tolerant varieties — transgenic rice also presents economic risks,” writes Dustin Mulvaney, lead author, and now assistant professor at San Jose State University.

For one, California growers rely on exports for half of their sales. At present, Japan alone constitutes 41 percent of the state’s export market. Japan purchased more than $421 million in 2009 — over 40 percent of the industry's exports.

Japan has suggested that if tests on imports reveal transgenic traits, it would deny rice shipments. Other international customers such as Taiwan, Turkey and South Korea have followed suit. Both Taiwan and South Korea have asserted strict import restrictions on transgenic rice. Turkey banned transgenic rice altogether.

 

“While it is difficult to determine whether protectionism, culture or biosafety are the main forces driving such policies, all play a role in discouraging the deployment of transgenic rice,” Mulvaney said

California growers manage risks to marketability through the California Rice Certification Act. The act targets “characteristics of commercial impact,” including those of transgenic rice. The act states that growers rely upon identity preservation in the “production, handling and marketing practices that maintain the integrity and purity of agricultural commodities.”

Identity preservation is used to manage “genetic pollution” risks from transgenic crops  (California Agriculture July-September 2006), particularly those not approved for human consumption or used to make pharmaceuticals (California Agriculture April-June 2007). In these latter cases, identity preservation must be 100% effective.

Mulvaney notes, “The commercial approval of transgenic rice in California is unlikely until there is widespread market acceptance and growers are assured of no sales interruptions. “

Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 7:49 AM
  • Author: Janet L. White

Next 5 stories | Last story

 
E-mail
 
Webmaster Email: kmchurchill@ucanr.edu