Posted By Cindy October 13, 2014
Researchers at Purdue University have identified a set of genes that can be used to naturally boost the provitamin A content of corn, which could help fight vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, as well as macular degeneration right here at home.
The human body can convert provitamin A carotenoids into vitamin A, which plays key roles in eye health and the immune system, as well as in the synthesis of certain hormones. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness in 250,000 to 500,000 children every year, half of whom die within a year of losing their eyesight, according to the World Health Organization. Insufficient carotenoids may also contribute to macular degeneration in the elderly, a leading cause of blindness among the elderly in Europe and the U.S.
“This study gives us the genetic blueprint to quickly and cost-effectively convert white or yellow corn to orange corn that is rich in carotenoids – and we can do so using natural plant breeding methods, not transgenics,” said Professor of Agronomy Torbert Rocheford. Identifying the genes that determine carotenoid levels in corn kernels will help plant breeders develop novel biofortifed corn varieties for Africa and the U.S. The dark orange color of these corn varieties also makes them more culturally acceptable to consumers in African countries where yellow corn is generally fed only to animals, Rocheford said.
Note that he said this can be done by “natural” plant breeding, not “transgenics” which is another word for genetic modification. Genetically modified Golden Rice, which has been around for a decade now, was developed specifically to address vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries yet has been maligned and protested by GMO critics. Let’s hope they can speed up the “natural” process and get orange corn out there before too many more hundreds of thousands of children die.
Read more about orange corn from Purdue.
Posted By Cathryn October 9, 2014
Last night, Jimmy Kimmel dished up a hearty helping of laughs seasoned with some satirical truth in a segment based on the Consumer Reports story on GMOs published earlier this week.
In the segment, a man-on-the-street crew asks farmers market consumers two questions. First, do they avoid GMOs? Second, do they know what the acronym GMO actually means?
For anyone who has tracked the correlation between common opinion on GMOs and factual knowledge of this technology, the results will seem predictable. For anyone who has followed just mainstream media coverage and first confronts this realization during a late night comedy show, they may be a bit shocking.
Why? While the vast majority of interviewees gaspingly reply that they try and avoid GMOs with great aplomb, all but one questioned has no clue what GMOs are. Those asked have only vague, convoluted explanations for their avoidance.
To watch the clip, click here.
The point has been made many times, but it seems to need reiteration. The more your know about GMO, the less likely you are to buy into bogus anti-GMO brainwashing.
Get real answers to you GMO questions by clicking here.
Posted By Cindy September 25, 2014
It was 1997 when former President Jimmy Carter penned an op-ed for The Washington Times entitled “Forestalling Famine With Biotechnology.” He noted then that “extremist groups in affluent nations have begun to mount attacks against plant biotechnology” and that they were also concerned “that fertilizer and pesticides will “poison” the earth’s farmland, even when used in moderate amounts.”
Carter called that thinking “dangerously misguided” and said it would be “grievous that we have within our power the ability to prevent starvation, but fail to act on it.”
“Responsible biotechnology is not the enemy; starvation is,” he concluded.
That was 17 years ago when agricultural biotechnology was in its very infancy. A new study has taken a look at livestock productivity and health data from more than 100 billion animals covering a 29 year period from prior to 1996 when all animal feed was non-GMO, and the years since then as use has increased to more than 90%. The study done by animal biotechnology specialist Alison Van Eenennaam with the University of California-Davis conclusively found no abnormal trends in livestock health since GMO crops became commonly used as livestock feed. “Although this is field data, it really supports the wealth of scientific studies that have shown no deleterious effects from consuming genetically engineered feed in our livestock populations,” said Van Eenennaam. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences has just undertaken a comprehensive independent study of genetically engineered crops, sponsored in part by USDA.
The question is, will any results matter to the anti-GMO extremist groups that Carter warned about in 1997, to whom no amount of scientific evidence on the safety of genetically engineered crops will suffice. These groups consistently claim research on GMOs has been limited, is inconclusive, or is biased because it was funded by the industry.
These activist organizations are the enemies of biotechnology and arguably the enemies of our world’s very future. “Without adequate food supplies at affordable prices, we cannot expect world health or peace,” Carter said in 1997. The world could well be a better place if we truly turned our swords into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks and got on with the business of feeding hungry people.
Posted By Cathryn September 22, 2014
Let’s get one thing straight from the get go. Dr. Oz is a professional celebrity who hawks his opinions for money. Whether fear-mongering or shilling for “magic pills,” he makes exaggerated, even unsubstantiated claims to get attention. Attention turns into ratings. Ratings turn into money.
There is one reliable way to stop his bogus claims. Turn off your television. Tell your friends how bogus he is. Explain that he is not watching out for their best interests. Repeat the above paragraph.
If everyone ignores him, he will go away.
With that said, Dr. Oz still basks in the glow of the Oprah-effect. Her blessing radiates like a golden halo around his head. She has sprinkled fairy dust on his tongue and now his words come out as if proclaimed by an angel sitting on its tip, chiming like golden bells in the ears of many.
What makes his brand of show business particularly heinous is that he capitalizes upon this image and on the M.D. behind his name.
Today, he will air a show bashing what he calls “GMO pesticides.” From the information already online, it appears to focus on Dow’s Enlist product which is still in the regulatory process. The episode’s preview shows children eating fruits and vegetables, flashes words like “president” in red type and contains the great Oz’s melodramatic warnings of an oncoming Armageddon.
The fact Enlist is meant for use on row crops and not fruits and veggies aside, the heavy-handed tactics employed conjuring the imagery used in dramatic interpretations of conspiracy theories.
The blatant fear mongering relates back to a letter sent to the EPA by a group of scientists. The “evidence” to which they point has been discredited time and time again. Yet, they trot it out another time as if facts do not matter; baseless fear trumps fact in their logic.
Some might be blinded by the signatories’ titles. Reading to the very end of the document, find the very last line.
“The signers of this letter have done so in their personal capacities. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes and do not imply any institutional position.”
The signatories have not been given the backing of their respective institutions in this matter. They are acting on their own behalf on this one.
Dr. Oz flashes the names of terrifying illnesses on the screen. He magnifies their claims and ignores the incredibly stringent standards any pesticide must meet to gain EPA approval.
Why would he do this? If you do not wish to simply refer to the first paragraph, consider what Dr. Oz said himself when testifying before Congress on some of the claims made on his show earlier this year.
“I actually do personally believe in the items which I talk about on the show. I passionately study them. I recognize that often times they don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact.”
Passionate or not, he clearly understands that what he says does not always pass for fact. He willingly creates panic and stress amongst those who place their trust in him. His credentials may have meant something once. Now, they seem sullied as he breaks his oath to “first do no harm” every time he misrepresents his program as factual advice provided by a caring doctor.
Together, let’s turn him off. Then, tell those we care about to do the same. Dr. Oz relies upon our complicity to promulgate his propaganda. Shutting him off will shut him down.
Posted By Cindy September 8, 2014
Last year, more people were killed by automobile accidents, heart attacks, lung cancer, and natural causes combined than by any one tomato. – Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
When you have plenty of food on the table, it’s easy for us in America to decide we want to avoid certain foods. I mean, lots of us may avoid things like Brussels sprouts or squid, for example. But there is a growing trend to cast certain categories of food or food ingredients out of our diets for a variety of reasons – weight loss being number one since just about any diet tends to cut out certain food segments. There are also a good percentage of people with serious food allergies or intolerances to things like shellfish, peanuts, gluten, lactose, sulfides or even strawberries that need to avoid them.
But there is a significant amount of the population that experts say are increasingly developing an unjustified fear of certain food ingredients, particularly genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Dr. David Just of Cornell University recently testified at a congressional hearing about biotechnology that many consumers are starting to adopt beliefs about GMOs with very little knowledge about them. “There’s a large and growing number of consumers that now stigmatize GMOs in the U.S.,” said Just. “Consumers associate GMOs primarily with some unidentifiable health risk.”
However, Just has done research that shows what happens once consumers understand the reasons for genetic modification. “When consumers are presented with direct explanations of the direct benefits they are much more willing to accept the technology,” said Just.
A study cited by Just surveyed over 1,000 mothers about their attitudes towards high fructose corn syrup in an effort to determine what drives people to stigmatize certain food ingredients. Their primary findings were that some may overweigh the perceived risks of the avoided ingredient, and secondly, “some individuals who avoid ingredients may have a greater need for social approval among their reference group.” In other words, they may be doing it because it’s the trendy thing to do, not because they have any facts or knowledge to back them up.
Indicating perhaps that their beliefs are not strongly held, the study also found that “while HCFS Avoiders had negative attitudes toward HFCS, they were not willing to pay more (compared to non-avoiders) for products that were sweetened instead with table sugar.”
During his testimony, Just repeatedly commented that the industry needs to do a better job of communicating the benefits of biotechnology to consumers and goodness knows the industry is trying, but it still seems like it’s an uphill battle, since the most effective way of getting the message across seems to be one on one conversation. We all have a dog in this fight, so wherever you are – on the plane, in the store, in an elevator – start the conversation somehow and get the word out. We need to make it trendy and cool to support GMOs!
Posted By Cathryn August 26, 2014
Yesterday, the Center for Consumer Freedom ran a story highlighting Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap’s verbal sleight of hand in promoting consumer information while clearly providing slightly deceptive details on its own products.
Reflecting upon the specifics of the situation, I got to thinking. The comments about Dr. Bronner’s could be applied to so many situations involving the marketing of both organic and non-GMO.
During a recent walk through the Barney’s cosmetic department in Chicago, a pale hipster accosted me ranting about the amazing non-GMO skincare line now available just to my left. Raving how exciting this addition was, he threw out a stream of inspiring, lofty adjectives to describe its virtues.
Confused as to why a non-GMO skincare line might yield superior results, I asked what he felt to be a terribly silly question from someone obviously unacquainted with the horrors of biotechnology.
Simply, how do GMO’s damage your skin?
Sputtering a stream of noncommittal, barely discernible propaganda, he claimed that everyone knew it was better. He had no clue as to why everyone came to this conclusion.
From picking up a bottle of magic soap to sinking serious cash into the clout-heavy, science-light scrubs, consumers feel pressured every day to pony up pretty sums for products developed with top notch marketing and second-rate science. Pressured to buy based on status instead of sound reason, we feel compelled to comply with something at its core based in capitalism and cloaked in the carefully-crafted, feel-good fallacies.
In the end, consumers get pick-pocketed by stylishly-clad, silver tongued shysters. We urge teens not to give in to peer pressure, not to be lemmings. Maybe, more adults should do the same.
Peer reviewed, sound scientific studies have shown repeatedly biotechnology and GMOs provide incredible environmental and, in the future, nutritional benefits while impacting people in the same way as non-GMOs.
Whether you slather it on your skin or sip it with a straw, someone will always try and spruce up a description to sell you on paying more for something just like you have had before. Think for yourself. Real facts show what is best for your physical and financial health.
Posted By Cindy August 13, 2014
As the name implies, the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference is a scientific and technical kind of meeting, which is organized every two years by the National Corn Growers Association with presentations focusing on the latest research, concepts and applications in the corn world.
A wide variety of people attend the event, such as Brian Burris with Novosep, a life sciences and biotechnology company with facilities all over the world. “I’m invested in the industry,” he said about why he attended the 2014 conference. He’s been to the conference before but not lately and was “looking for some intellectual stimulation and that objective was definitely fulfilled.”
As a chemist, Burris found this year’s focus on corn processing very interesting and he highly recommends the conference to anyone in the industry. Interview with Brian Burris, Novosep
2014 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Cindy August 11, 2014
Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer were pleased to be the major sponsors at the recent 2014 Corn Utilization and Technology Conference in Louisville.
“We work very closely with the National Corn Growers Association,” said Morrie Bryant with DuPont Pioneer’s End Use Team. “We also have a relationship with the corn processing community and being able to help keep a sustainable supply of milling quality corn is important to all of us.”
Bryant says CUTC includes a blend of people all across the value chain. “It’s an opportunity to share the issues and what’s concerning us about the productivity of our crops,” he said. Interview with Morrie Bryant, DuPont Pioneer
Ryan Bartlett, Emerging Technologies Lead with Monsanto’s Global Corn Technology Group, gave a presentation at CUTC on the future of agriculture technology. “There’s a lot of opportunity that we have in the pipeline for farmers,” said Bartlett. “We’re working across the globe to understand issues that growers may be facing that may not always be the same as what we have in the states.”
Bartlett talked about Monsanto’s recently announced BioAg Alliance with Novozymes. “We’re looking through what Novozymes has available today and in the pipeline to bring that next generation of biological products to growers.” Interview with Ryan Bartlett, Monsanto
2014 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Cindy August 6, 2014
DuPont Industrial Biosciences is looking into understanding the yeast metabolism and dynamics associated with various stresses in the fuel ethanol fermentation process.
“Those stresses could be putting in too much enzyme, or not enough enzyme,” said Dr. Donald Cannon, who presented at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference. “So, we’ve identified succinate as a marker for nitrogen stress and what we’re using that for is to help in protease trials.”
Cannon says they believe these metabolite insights will be helpful as ethanol plant technology diversifies. “Increasing efficiency and taking care of process upsets,” he explained. “What we want to be able to do is help plants identify those upsets.”
Listen to my interview with Joe here: Interview with Donald Cannon, DuPont
2014 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Cathryn August 5, 2014
In a world where it can be hard to cut through the media morass, Bloomberg Businessweek made it even more difficult to get to the heart of the GMO-labeling issue with an article on the differing political stances taken by Ben and Jerry’s and their parent company, Unilever. Noting the opinion of food activists who already openly take sides without consulting with market or industry analysts, the diatribe draws heavily on self-interested opinion to conclude Unilever faces financial repercussions for taking this course of action. The logic makes about as much sense as calling Chubby Hubby health food.
Ignoring the more studied statements of an actual analysts, who suggests Unilever would not want to risk potential PR-backlash should it shush the ice cream icons, the journalist pushes the prophecies Marion Nestle. While certainly a well-credentialed professor of nutrition and public health, her expertise in the realm of market realities does not engender the type of trust which the story’s author so willingly provides – and expects reader to also bestow.
In addition to the lose logic, an infographic on the benefits of biotech crops accompanies the stories. While one might also call it confusing at best, the picture tutorial draws some curious conclusions about corn. At first, it seems to imply GMO-varieties improved the yield of the average U.S. acre to 26 bushels of corn between 2001 and 2010. As anyone who follows agricultural statistics would automatically know, this does not hold even an iota of truth as the average yield per acre in 2010 published by USDA was 158.2. Upon further examination, the increase in average yield over that period does not even come out to 26 bushels as the 2001 data details an average acre yielded 138.2 bushels of corn. Thus, the infographic clearly demonstrates only the lack of informed data contained in the article it accompanies.
Everyone is entitled to have their own point of view but, if one seeks credibility, said point of view should be well informed. If Ben and Jerry’s wishes to adhere to a costly and confusing patchwork of state-level labels, so be it. As there is no guarantee of what each actually will mean in terms of standards or how it will appear on the product, it can choose to chase the next hip idea without reasoning how it might impact cost and logistics without offering additional actual information. Unilever, while allowing a wayward child to learn a lesson for itself, has the right to look at the potential impacts of disjointed, confusing regulations and come to another logical stance. That does make sense.
What does not make sense is the portrayal of the GMO-labeling free-for-all as some sort of greater moral battle. Food labels should be based upon factual, scientific information relevant to the health of consumers. Yet, as Bloomberg Businessweek could not get even the basic facts right, it makes sense that logic could not come from misinformation and misplaced credence.
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