By Jenna Blumenfeld, NewHope360.com, posted: 2/17/2015.
The recent approval of the non-browning Arctic apple got us thinking: What other genetically modified organisms are the USDA and FDA considering for deregulation?
We reported about the Arctic apple back in 2012 — a simpler time when GMO apples were still safely confined to high-security field trials. But even though it took the USDA three years to sign off on the apple, it all seems so... sudden. Could the natural industry have been doing more to prevent Arctic from coming to fruition?
Even more worrisome is that the apple may set a precedent for GMO deregulations that don’t offer any real need. It wasn’t as if the apple industry, valued at $3.1 billion in 2012, was hurting. With the approval of a purely cosmetic GMO, what other crops may soon be coming to grocery stores?
The following products have petitions pending approval with the USDA (which handles GE crops) and FDA (which handles GE animals).
Non-browning Apple by Okanagan Specialty Fruits
Recently deregulated by the USDA, the Arctic apple does not brown after it’s cut, thanks to limited expression of an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO). The brand touts that the Arctic apple will eliminate the “yuck” factor that comes with eating fresh apples that have been bitten, sliced or cut.
In addition to concerns over organic contamination and unknown effects of this relatively new technology, opponents of Arctic argue that PPO genes also play a role in pest resistance. “Non-browning apple trees might be more vulnerable to disease and require more pesticides than conventional apples,” said the Center for Food Safety in a statement.
Okanagan Specialty Fruits says it will take several years for Arctic to hit stores.
Herbicide Resistant Cotton by Dow AgroSciences
Genetically engineered to resist sprayings of the powerful herbicides 2,4-D and glufosinate, Dow says its cotton was partly created in response to the “growing incidence of glyphosate resistant weeds,” also known as "superweeds".
The cotton is genetically modified with a soil bacterium that expresses a gene that renders both herbicides inactive. The result: Spray all day, and your crop doesn't die.
Glyphosate Resistant Creeping Bentgrass by Scott
A short grass variety often used on golf courses, Scott's creeping bentgrass is genetically engineered to resist sprayings of glyphosate. In 2005, Scott conducted field trials of bentgrass in Idaho; five years later the GMO plant was found growing in Oregon even though it was never deregulated. Possibly because they are small seeds that are easily transferred by wind and pollen, GMO creeping bentgrass remains in USDA regulatory limbo.
Cold Temp Resistant Eucalyptus by ArborGen
Not just for koalas, fast-growing eucalyptus trees are primarily grown for paper—especially in the southeastern United States. ArborGen’s eucalyptus is genetically modified to better tolerate cold conditions.
In 2010, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service granted ArborGen a permit to conduct field trials involving more than 200,000 genetically modified trees and is currently preparing an Environmental Impact Statement for the product, because it may “potentially impact a wide scope of environmental values,” according the USDA.
Fungus Resistant Potatoes by J.R. Simplot
Simplot genetically engineered the most popular potato variety, Russet Burbank, to resist the potato fungus late blight (the cause of the Irish potato famine in the mid-1800s) along with reduced susceptibility to browning, and possibly low levels of acrylamide, a chemical that manifests in fried, starchy foods. In November 2014, the USDA approved a similar potato by Simplot, but without blight resistance.
Monsanto introduced a beetle-resistant potato in 1995, but thanks to limited consumer demand, it was discontinued in 2001.
Super Fast Growing Farmed Salmon by AquaBounty AquaAdvantage
Opponents of AquaBounty’s AquaAdvantage salmon refer to it as “Frankenfish," as this genetically engineered fish intended for human consumption incorporates genes from both the Chinook Salmon and the Atlantic Salmon. AquaBounty says the fish will be raised in land-based facilities and grows twice as fast as wild salmon.
GE animals must be approved through the FDA rather than the USDA by submitting a New Animal Drug Application (NADA). AquaBounty filed for FDA approval in 2010 and in an August 2014 report said it expected a NADA approval late last year. The GE salmon still awaits approval.
Sterilized Male Mosquitoes by Oxitec
Recent news that Oxitec, a UK-based biotech company, submitted a petition to the FDA to release genetically engineered mosquitoes into Florida has environmental advocacy groups up in arms. "The FDA has not made the NADA for the GE mosquito available to the public, even despite multiple Freedom of Information Act requests," says Genna Reed, researcher for the Food and Water Watch.
In a nutshell, Oxitec's genetically altered, sterile male mosquitoes would be released to mate with wild females—the offspring wouldn't survive long enough to transmit dengue fever.
In a letter to the FDA, Food and Water Watch executive director Winona Hauter wrote: "The sparse information that is publicly available about the organism indicates that it poses a serious risk to the environment and public health."
Monsanto Corn - now what?
Two varieties of Monsanto’s corn are currently being reviewed by the USDA. One variety claims to increase ear biomass size to boost yield. The other is genetically engineered to resist applications of glyphosate and also stave off corn rootworm, a bug that feeds on corn roots during its larvae stage.
For the latter, Monsanto built off its current Bt corn technology to offer “enhanced control of target insect pests and prolonged durability of existing Bt technologies designed to control corn rootworm,” according to the company’s USDA petition.
Historically, farmers prevented extensive corn rootworm damage by rotating their crops every season—the worms would die off because they exclusively eat corn. Like superweeds, evidence suggests that existing Bt corn varieties have produced Bt-resistant corn rootworms, hence the perceived need for increasingly more complex combined GMO traits.
The USDA is currently accepting public comments on Monsanto's increased ear biomass product until March 23, 2015.
This eye opening article courtesy of NewHope360.com, written by Jenna Blumenfeld, and posted February 17, 2015. Find it here.