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Category Archives: Genetic Engineering

Just another GE mirage

Posted: October 2, 2012 at 7:18 am

The announcement about scientists producing GE milk will damage New Zealands brand on which our more than $10 billion a year dairy exports rely, the Green Party said today.

Today AgResearch scientists announced they have used genetic engineering (GE) technology to breed the first cow in the world that produces high protein milk that may be hypo-allergenic.

"This is just another GE mirage; another announcement from GE proponents about a potential product which we do not need and has no market," Green Party GE Steffan Browning said today.

"Its not right for these scientists to be touting their finding as a solution to milk allergies in babies as some sort of justification for the huge amount of resources that have been invested into GE research.

"We see this over and over again with GE scientists; this new product or that new product that will have apparent amazing results but it never actually meets our real needs for a safe, healthy food supply.

"The Royal Commission into GE recommended that wherever possible animals that are a common source of food should not be used for GE but that recommendation has been ignored.

"Field trials in New Zealand need to be closed down and GE research needs to be kept in the lab.

"Our export markets want safe food grown in a natural environment but the production of GE milk puts those markets at risk.

"Putting at $10 billion a year industry at risk for half a glass of milk is not something to be celebrating," said Mr Browning.

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Ballot Watch: Labeling genetically engineered foods

Posted: September 30, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Proposition 37, pushed by organic food companies and Joseph Mercola, an osteopath and owner of an alternative health website, is the second attempt nationwide to ask voters to require labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Genetic engineering, also known as genetic modifying, happens when scientists change the DNA of a plant or animal to achieve new characteristics. Common genetically engineered crops in the United States include corn mixed with pesticide so it is resistant to bugs, and soybeans bred to tolerate weed-killers such as Round-Up. Cross breeding techniques, such as mixing a plum and an apricot to make a pluot, do not meet the definition of genetic engineering under Proposition 37.

As biotech innovations have expanded in recent years, the percentage of crops made from genetic engineering has increased dramatically. Today, about 90 percent of corn and soybeans are genetically engineered, according to the USDA. That's a concern to proponents of organic farming, but a boon to producers who can grow greater quantities at lower cost.

Advocates concerned about potential health and environmental impacts of genetic engineering have been trying for years to get states and the federal government to label such foods. They have unsuccessfully pushed for food labeling laws in 19 state legislatures and submitted a petition to the federal Food and Drug Administration earlier this year. Ten years ago Oregon voters rejected a ballot measure that would have required labeling genetically engineered food.

WHAT IT WOULD DO

Require that food containing genetically engineered ingredients be labeled "Partially produced with genetic engineering" or "May be partially produced with genetic engineering."

Exempt most meat, dairy and alcohol, as well as food that is organic or sold in restaurants.

Prohibit labeling or advertising genetically engineered food as "natural," "naturally made," "naturally grown" or "all natural." May also prohibit those terms on other processed foods.

Allow people to sue food manufacturers who violate labeling rules.

SUPPORTERS

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NZ out of step on GE

Posted: September 21, 2012 at 10:17 am

The New Zealand Government needs to follow the lead of Austria and France who are taking action around their approval processes for genetic engineering (GE), the Green Party said today.

In response to a study finding that rats grew tumours and died after being fed GE Roundup ready corn, Austrias Minister for agriculture and the environment has asked the European Commission to review its approval processes. Frances Government have also ordered an investigation into the findings and are signalling that they may suspend imports of the corn.

"New Zealand needs to do the same but successive Governments seem too closely tied with the GE industry to be trusted to do so," Green Party genetic engineering spokesperson Steffan Browning said today.

"The National Government funded the recent biotech conference to the tune of $100,000 from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment plus additional significant contributions from other departments; these are not the actions of a Government with their eyes open about GE.

"The New Zealand public want to know that the food approved for sale in this country is safe.

"Without changing the GE approval process and actually enforcing our labelling laws we cant be confident in that.

"We fought hard for proper labelling laws but they are not enforced, so New Zealanders cant actually show their opposition to GE through their purchasing.

"The fact is that this study shows we are right to be concerned and we need better approval processes that prove safety over the long term, instead of the short term feeding studies that decisions have been made on to date.

"This study has already started a strong discussion because people are really worried about the effects of these foods that have been approved to be in our stores now for a decade or longer.

"Of course this research is being described by some as controversial because there is big, big money involved in GE.

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Immediate withdrawal of unsafe GE corn vital

Posted: September 20, 2012 at 3:15 am

20 September 2012

Immediate withdrawal of unsafe GE corn vital

Research released yesterday shows the Governments lax policy on genetic engineering is putting the health of New Zealanders at risk, the Green Party said today.

The peer-reviewed research, published in the Journal of Food and Toxicology, shows disturbing results about the health effects of eating a genetically engineered corn that has been approved for human consumption in New Zealand for the last 10 years.

The rats in this study, fed with Roundup ready corn with levels of Roundup that are within approved limits, developed mutations and tumours at a hugely alarming rate.

There are now huge concerns over the safety of this corn. Eating this corn has now been proven to cause the growth of tumours, so why was it approved a decade ago without the necessary evidence that it was safe to eat? Green Party genetic engineering spokesperson Steffan Browning asked today.

New Zealand has more than 70 GE foods approved for sale in New Zealand to date, and these approvals were mostly based on health studies that were 90 days long or less. This new research recorded effects for two years and the tumours and deaths showed up after that previous 90 day cut off point.

We now know that eating this corn, called NK603, causes tumours and we cant be sure that any products containing these GE foods currently out there being eaten by New Zealanders are safe either.

FSANZ must immediately recall any products that have this strain of GE corn as an ingredient and reassess all previous approvals for long term eating safety.

New Zealanders dont want to be part of a science experiment. They rely on the Government to make sure these products are safe before they are released for human consumption.

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Immediate withdrawal of unsafe GE corn vital – Greens

Posted: at 3:15 am

Research released yesterday shows the Governments lax policy on genetic engineering is putting the health of New Zealanders at risk, the Green Party said today.

The peer-reviewed research, published in the Journal of Food and Toxicology, shows disturbing results about the health effects of eating a genetically engineered corn that has been approved for human consumption in New Zealand for the last 10 years.

The rats in this study, fed with Roundup ready corn with levels of Roundup that are within approved limits, developed mutations and tumours at a hugely alarming rate.

"There are now huge concerns over the safety of this corn. Eating this corn has now been proven to cause the growth of tumours, so why was it approved a decade ago without the necessary evidence that it was safe to eat?" Green Party genetic engineering spokesperson Steffan Browning asked today.

"New Zealand has more than 70 GE foods approved for sale in New Zealand to date, and these approvals were mostly based on health studies that were 90 days long or less. This new research recorded effects for two years and the tumours and deaths showed up after that previous 90 day cut off point.

"We now know that eating this corn, called NK603, causes tumours and we cant be sure that any products containing these GE foods currently out there being eaten by New Zealanders are safe either.

"FSANZ must immediately recall any products that have this strain of GE corn as an ingredient and reassess all previous approvals for long term eating safety.

"New Zealanders dont want to be part of a science experiment. They rely on the Government to make sure these products are safe before they are released for human consumption.

"Despite legal requirements, most GE foods are unlabelled so New Zealanders cant even choose to avoid them.

"I am hopeful that this study is on the top of the Minister for Food Safetys reading list this morning and that she will take immediate action to protect the health of New Zealanders.

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Genetic test predicts risk for Autism

Posted: September 19, 2012 at 6:14 am

Professor Stan Skafidas, Director, Centre for Neural Engineering, University of Melbourne

A team of Australian researchers, led by The University of Melbourne has developed a genetic test that is able to predict the risk of developing Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD.

Lead researcher Stan Skafidas, Director of the Centre for Neural Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne, said the test could be used to assess the risk for developing the disorder.

This test could assist in the early detection of the condition in babies and children and help in the early management of those who become diagnosed, he said.

It would be particularly relevant for families who have a history of Autism or related conditions such as Aspergers Syndrome, he said.

Autism affects around one in 150 births and is characterised by abnormal social interaction, impaired communication and repetitive behaviours.

The test correctly predicted ASD with more than 70 per cent accuracy in people of central European descent. Ongoing validation tests are continuing including the development of accurate testing for other ethnic groups.

Clinical neuropsychologist, Dr Renee Testa from the University of Melbourne and Monash University, said the test would allow clinicians to provide early interventions that may reduce behavioural and cognitive difficulties that children and adults with ASD experience.

Early identification of risk means we can provide interventions to improve overall functioning for those affected, including families, she said.

A genetic cause has been long sought with many genes implicated in the condition, but no single gene has been adequate for determining risk.

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Genetic test predicts risk for Autism

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Prop. 37: Another example of the perils of the initiative process

Posted: September 15, 2012 at 9:12 am

Love it or hate it, the one thing you can say for sure about California's ballot initiative process is that it's the absolute worst way to craft policy dealing with complex scientific issues.

That doesn't stop advocates on one side or another from constantly trying, with the result that the public's understanding of the underlying facts plummets faster than you can say, well, "Proposition 37."

Proposition 37 is on November's ballot. The measure would require some, but not all, food sold in California and produced via genetic engineering to be labeled as such. (There are exemptions for milk, restaurant food and other products.)

Genetic engineering, or genetic modification, which involves manipulating DNA or transferring it from one species to another, is increasingly common in agriculture and food processing, and wouldn't be banned or even regulated by the measure. Genetic engineering has pluses and minuses. It can increase crop yields and pest resistance. But it can also affect the environment in negative ways pollen or seeds from genetically engineered crops can be spread by wind, birds or insects to territory where they're unwanted, for example.

Once you've said that, you've said pretty much everything that's known to be relevant to Proposition 37. The rest is baloney, of the non-genetically engineered variety.

So what does this mean for you? It means that between now and election day your airwaves are likely to be filled with steaming piles of fatuous nonsense about genetically engineered foods (which will be depicted as horrifically perilous or absolutely safe), about trial lawyers, about struggling mom-and-pop grocery stores, about the evils of multinational agribusinesses and federal regulators. You'll be presented with learned scientific and economic studies on both sides, and they'll almost certainly be misleading, incomplete or irrelevant, though they'll sound pretty danged convincing.

This will all come to you courtesy of war chests that are already in the neighborhood of $30 million, total.

Great initiative system we have here in the Golden State. As a procedure for producing rational law, it could only be designed by a mad scientist working with rogue DNA.

Let's start with the Yes on 37 campaign. It describes its bottom line as your right to know what's in your food; so what's wrong with mandating explicit labeling? That's fair as far as it goes, but it doesn't go very far. The danger in enacting rules like this is that while they sound perfectly reasonable, they distract from the need for thoughtful and effective regulation and for action at the Legislature, not the ballot box.

"All consumers should have a right to know how their food is produced," observes Gregory Jaffe, head of the biotechnology project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is no crony of the food industry. "But that includes not merely genetic engineering, but irradiated foods and those produced from cloning."

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GEN reports on ocular therapeutics targeting the retina

Posted: September 11, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Public release date: 10-Sep-2012 [ | E-mail | Share ]

Contact: John Sterling jsterling@genengnews.com 914-740-2196 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering News

New Rochelle, NY, September 10, 2012-- Therapies for retinal diseases are expected to overtake those for glaucoma by 2014, reports Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN). Because current retinal disease treatments only improve vision for six to eight weeks, there is a critical need for new remedies, according to a recent issue of GEN.

"As increasing numbers of baby-boomers continue to grow older, many will have to deal with eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration," said John Sterling, Editor-in-Chief of GEN. "Some estimates put the current AMD and diabetic retinopathy drug segment of the market at $3 billion, and this is expected to increase to about $5 billion in two years."

Standard therapy has been Genentech's VEGF inhibitors Lucentis and the off-label use of Avastin. Regeneron, in collaboration with Bayer HealthCare, is challenging these drugs with a similar VEGF inhibitor, Eyela. The FDA approved the drug last November for wet AMD.

In another approach, Acucela is in Phase II trials using visual cycle modulators to lighten the metabolic load on the retina by reducing the activity of the rod visual system. This protects the retina from light damage, improves retinal vasculature, and reduces the accumulation of A2E and other retinal-related toxic by-products.

GlaxoSmithKline has two drugs in Phase II trials for ocular therapy: darapladib, an oral Lp-PLA2 inhibitor for diabetic macular edema, and Votrient, a multi-kinase angiogenesis inhibitor in eye drop form for AMD. Early-stage work also is under way for neovascular AMD, dry AMD, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macula edema, uveitis, and glaucoma, as well as for technologies for drug delivery.

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Other companies covered in the GEN article include Acucela, pSiveda, Sanofi, NeuroTech, QLT, Applied Genetic Technologies, RetroSense Therapeutics, Aerie Pharmaceuticals, Kowa Pharmaceuticals America, Novartis, Senju Pharmaceutical, Can-Fite Biopharma, Inotek Pharmaceuticals, Otsuka Pharmaceutical, and Santen Pharmaceutical.

For a copy of the September 1 issue of GEN, please call (914) 740-2146, or email: pbartell@genengnews.com

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Mandatory GM Labeling Would Require Major Change

Posted: September 10, 2012 at 11:10 am

CPG manufacturers may be on the cusp of monumental change as voters in California contemplate a hotly contested ballot initiative to require labeling of genetically modified foods.

Food marketers will face tough choices should the measure pass, as about 70% of processed foods sold in supermarkets contain GM ingredients like corn and soy. Some estimate that 100,000 or more foods sold in California contain some level of GE ingredients and would therefore be affected.

The mandate would be limited to the Golden State, but the implications for companies that choose not to move away from GM ingredients in advance of the July 1, 2014, deadline could be as far-reaching as consumer awareness spreads.

While the government deems genetically modified organisms safe, Californians want to judge for themselves. A Pepperdine University poll found that if the election were held last month, Californians would pass the proposition by a 3-1 margin.

To avoid the partially produced with genetic engineering label and possible consumer backlash, suppliers will likely reformulate product with more costly non-GE foods or organic ingredients, just as theyve done in countries where genetic modification disclosure is required.

Read more: Prop 37 Battle Rages in California

A recent study commissioned by the No on 37, Stop the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme campaign, of which the Grocery Manufacturers Association is a chief sponsor, bears this out.

It projects that reformulations to non-GE and organic ingredients, which by law cannot be genetically modified, will be the most likely course taken by food producers.

Read more: California GMO Bill Is Top Priority for GMA

Retailers might also adjust their sourcing policies to gain consumer favor by incorporating more organic foods and those that have been verified under the Non-GMO Project and labeled with its seal.

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Promising new drug target for inflammatory lung diseases

Posted: September 8, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Public release date: 6-Sep-2012 [ | E-mail | Share ]

Contact: Cathia Falvey cfalvey@liebertpub.com 914-740-2100 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering News

New Rochelle, NY, September 6, 2012The naturally occurring cytokine interleukin-18, or IL-18, plays a key role in inflammation and has been implicated in serious inflammatory diseases for which the prognosis is poor and there are currently limited treatment options. Therapies targeting IL-18 could prove effective against inflammatory diseases of the lung including bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as described in a review article published in Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research (http://www.liebertpub.com/jir), a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers (http://www.liebertpub.com). The article is available free online at the Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research website. (http://www.liebertpub.com/jir)

Tomotaka Kawayama and coauthors from Kurume University School of Medicine, Fukuoka, Japan, University of Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan, and Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Frederick, MD, review the growing evidence to support the important role IL-18 has in inflammation and how it may help to initiate and worsen inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, dermatitis and inflammatory diseases of the bowel and immune system. In the article "Interleukin-18 in Pulmonary Inflammatory Diseases" (http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/jir.2012.0029) they describe the potential benefits of therapies aimed at blocking the activity of IL-18 to treat inflammatory lung disease.

"This review provides an interesting and thorough summary of the biology and potential application of IL-18 in the setting of inflammatory pulmonary disease," says Co-Editor-in-Chief Thomas A. Hamilton, PhD, Chairman, Department of Immunology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

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About the Journal Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research (http://www.liebertpub.com/jir), led by Co-Editors-in-Chief Ganes C. Sen, PhD, Chairman, Department of Molecular Genetics, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and Thomas A. Hamilton, PhD, is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published monthly in print and online that covers all aspects of interferons and cytokines from basic science to clinical applications. Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research is the official journal of the International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research. Complete tables of content and a sample issue (http://online.liebertpub.com/toc/jir/31/6) may be viewed online at the Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research website. (http://www.liebertpub.com/jir)

About the Publisher

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers (http://www.liebertpub.com) is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research, including Viral Immunology, AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, and DNA and Cell Biology. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm's 70 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available at Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers website. (http://www.liebertpub.com).

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Promising new drug target for inflammatory lung diseases

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