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Scientists warn of GM wheat threat

1.GM crop could cause liver failure: scientist
2.Scientists wary of CSIRO GM crop
3.World Scientists Warn on GM Wheat Threat
4.Opposition calls for rethink on GM wheat trial
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1.GM crop could cause liver failure: scientist
Sean Cowan
The West Australian, September 11 2012
http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/14812749/gm-crop-could-cause-liver-failure-scientist/

A world-renowned scientist has warned that one of the CSIRO's genetically modified wheat varieties has the potential to cause a deadly disease that attacks the liver.

In his report on GM wheat that is expected to be released today, New Zealand genetics lecturer Jack Heinemann, from the University of Canterbury, said the CSIRO's technology suppressed an enzyme in the wheat which was similar to the human enzyme that produces glycogen.

Humans eating the wheat could find the technology suppresses glycogen production in their bodies, leading to liver failure.

His report was backed by Flinders University biochemist Judy Carman and molecular genetics expert Michael Antoniou, from Kings College, London.

The CSIRO yesterday revealed it had received approval from the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator for two field trials of wheat and barley with altered starch composition. The latest crop had been planted in the ACT in June.

It is understood this type of GM wheat has not been planted in WA. But the CSIRO would not comment on Professor Heinemann's findings.

Professor Heinemann told _The West Australian _ he had not seen any evidence the CSIRO had even considered the possibility that this variety of GM wheat could affect human glycogen production.

"There are very special risk assessments that should be done on this kind of modification because we have very limited experience with this," he said. "The vast majority of GM organisms in the human food supply have been modified to change a protein and that's a very different molecule with a different risk spectrum."

Professor Heinemann said he wasn't able to identify which sequence the CSIRO had used to suppress enzyme production in the wheat. But he had identified several possible sequences, each of which raised a different possible reaction.

The Safe Food Foundation, which commissioned the investigation, called on the CSIRO to reveal the details of the sequence used so independent researchers could investigate the ramifications for humans.
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2.Scientists wary of CSIRO GM crop
Adam Cresswell
The Australian, September 11 2012 
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/scientists-wary-of-csiro-gm-crop/story-fn59niix-1226471428252

SCIENTISTS from three countries are warning a CSIRO-led push to make Australia the first nation in the world to introduce genetically modified wheat crops could pose a significant health threat to humans and other animals.

The wheat crop in question, believed to be undergoing field trials in Western Australia, NSW and the ACT, is genetically modified to produce a grain with a lower glycaemic index, which is touted as healthier because the carbohydrates are more gradually absorbed. This in turn delays the return of hunger pangs, and helps reduce sudden swings in blood sugar, which is particularly good for diabetics.

But molecular biologist Jack Heinemann, from New Zealand's University of Canterbury, will today unveil work that suggests an enzyme in the wheat, which is suppressed by genetic manipulation to achieve the lower GI benefit, is similar to a human enzyme responsible for producing glycogen – a critical part of the body's energy-making process.

Professor Heinemann and other experts from Britain and Australia who were asked by pressure group the Safe Food Foundation, which is linked to the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, to give their opinions of the safety of the CSIRO's trial say there is evidence the DNA-like molecules suppressing the wheat enzyme could transfer to humans and animals, with fatal results.

"The issue here is that these small RNA molecules can transmit through food to people, even when it's cooked or processed," Professor Heinemann told The Australian.

"And we know that if they have the right kind of (genetic) sequence, they can have an effect on human genes. We don't know what the sequence is in the wheat, because the CSIRO haven't released it."

Professor Heinemann said the RNA molecule was meant to silence a particular gene in the wheat, but such techniques were prone to causing "off-target effects" whereby other genes were also affected.

He called on the CSIRO to conduct more thorough testing, including better testing of the effect on human tissues.

In a separate review of Professor Heinemann's analysis, commissioned by the Safe Food Foundation, Judy Carman, associate professor of health and the environment at Flinders University, said there had been a "poor risk assessment process applied to these GM wheat varieties by both the CSIRO and its regulatory overseer", the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator.

A spokesman for the CSIRO said the agency would be reviewing the claims and responding in due course.
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3.World Scientists Warn on CSIRO GM Wheat Threat
Safe Foos Foundation, September 10 2012 
http://sustainablepulse.com/2012/09/10/world-scientists-warn-csiro-gm-wheat-threat/

Expert scientists warn that genetically modified wheat may cause Glycogen Storage Disease IV, resulting in an enlarged liver, cirrhosis of the liver, and failure to thrive. Children born with this disease usually die at about the age of 5.

Australia is on track to be the first country in the world to grow GM wheat commercially, and to test this in human feeding trials.

Today in Melbourne molecular biologist and risk assessment researcher Professor Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, NZ, and Associate Professor Judy Carman, a biochemist at Flinders University, will release expert scientific opinions on the safety of CSIRO’s GM wheat. These opinions have been reviewed by Dr Michael Antoniou, reader in molecular genetics at King’s College, London.

Professor Heinemann’s expert opinion outlining how CSIRO’s GM wheat silencing technology could transfer to humans is believed to be a world-first, and has been reviewed by scientists in Australia, the UK and Austria.

Australia is on track to be the first country in the world to allow the commercial growing of GM wheat. It is not yet grown anywhere else, nor is there any market worldwide that wants GM wheat. Current GM food crops, like canola and corn, are experiencing fierce resistance across the globe, and there is growing anger in the USA, the birthplace of GM food technology.

Australia has been selected to lead the push for the acceptance of GM wheat and CSIRO is currently conducting field trials of GM wheat in WA, NSW, and the ACT. CSIRO says human feeding trials are planned. It is feared these may already be underway.

Professor Heinemann has studied the similarity in the DNA sequencing of the wheat branching enzyme which makes starch in wheat, and the human branching enzyme which produces glycogen. CSIRO’s GM technology deliberately suppresses the wheat branching enzyme in GM wheat so there is less starch and the wheat has a lower glycaemic index.

Professor Heinemann says there is strong evidence that siRNA, a type of dsRNA which is a form of ribonucleic acid, like DNA when produced in wheat will transfer to humans through food.

“There is strong evidence that siRNAs produced in the wheat will remain in a form that can transmit to humans even when the wheat has been cooked or processed for use in food.

“There is strong evidence that once transmitted, siRNA produced in wheat would have the biological capacity to cause an effect.”

There is also an environmental risk, which the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) appears to have overlooked in allowing field trials. These siRNAs will also transfer to animals that eat the wheat throughout the production chain, including beneficial insects, birds, mammals etc

Biochemist Dr Judy Carman from Flinders University has reviewed the Heinemann paper and written her own expert scientific opinion outlining the possible disease consequences from the transfer of siRNAs. She says it is likely that if a person eats GM wheat then the siRNA engineered to suppress the wheat branching enzyme would also silence the human branching enzyme.

Both expert scientists are concerned that human consumption of this GM wheat technology which is not affected by cooking or other processing could suppress the production of glycogen, which is critical for life.

In her expert opinion, Associate Professor Carman goes on to say: “Consequently it is clear that there is an obvious risk to animals and humans who eat these GM wheat varieties.” She says this could lead to disease and death. In fact, humans born with a genetic form of this disease usually die by the age of 5.

Dr Michael Antoniou, Reader in Molecular Genetics at King’s College, London, has also reviewed and endorsed the Heinemann and Carman expert opinions.

He says it not a question of if there will be gene function disturbances, but to what degree and with currently unknown health consequences. He’s criticised CSIRO, and the regulators, OGTR and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), for not being up to date with the latest developments in the field of RNAi technology and therefore not taking the necessary steps to properly evaluate the safety of the GM wheat.

The research was commissioned for the Safe Food Foundation, an Australian not for profit organisation that campaigns and advocates on food issues.

Safe Food Foundation director Scott Kinnear says the urgent scientific opinions were commissioned after a researcher alerted them to the similarity in the DNA sequencing of the wheat branching enzyme and human branching enzyme.

“Apart from the serious public health risk, the cost to taxpayers and farmers could be significant. It reminds me of CSIRO’s GM field pea project, shelved in 2005, which had allergen like reactions when tested on mice and a loss to taxpayers of approximately $10 million.

“In this case the testing was done at ANU as we believe that CSIRO lacks the capacity to do proper safety studies. In fact the Australian regulators FSANZ and the OGTR do not conduct any safety testing, nor require the safety testing recommended by our safety experts.

“FSANZ and the OGTR rely on GM applicants to do their own safety testing, even though CSIRO has previously demonstrated that it does not have the capacity to do this.”

The Safe Food Foundation calls on CSIRO to immediately release all details of its safety testing on GM wheat for urgent independent scientific review, and immediately release the precise DNA sequences involved so that independent scientists can conduct further urgent checking.

“If CSIRO cannot provide immediate and adequate responses to these issues we call on them to immediately cease all field trials currently underway, stop all plans for human feeding trials, and agree to undertake the recommended safety testing,” Mr Kinnear said.

To interview Professor Jack Heinemann, Dr Judy Carman, or Scott KInnear contact Liz Chapman, Safe Food Foundation 0406 005 057
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4.Opposition calls for rethink on GM wheat trial
ABC News, September 11 2012
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-09-11/opposition-calls-for-wheat-disclosure/4254566?section=wa

The State Opposition is calling on the Government to ensure a genetically modified wheat variety that is potentially fatal to humans, is not planted in WA.

The GM wheat is being trialled by the CSIRO in Canberra.

A report by a New Zealand genetics lecturer has found that humans eating the CSIRO crop could ultimately end up with a glycogen storage disease which causes liver failure.

The modified crop has a suppressed enzyme.

The opposition's agriculture spokesman, Paul Papalia, says the crop could soon be rolled out across the state.

He says the Government needs to re-think its stance on GM crops.

"They should cancel the trial immediately, and tell the Western Australian people what they are doing to ensure the safety of all Western Australians, and particularly children in light of this report," he said.

The State Government has described the research as "scaremongering."

The GM variety is being trialled in the ACT but the West Australian Government says there are no plans at this stage to trial it in WA.

The Agriculture Minister, Terry Redman, says it is too early to say whether the variety is safe because the ACT trial is not complete.

"Speculating, in fact, that something's unsafe now is quite frankly too early to do so," he said.

"This is a scientific trial and that needs to see its course.

"To claim now, before the trial is finished and all the appropriate tests that there's something wrong, is quite frankly a little scaremongering."

Mr Redman says the CSIRO is trialling the wheat variety for a range of reasons.

"There's some claims that it's harmful but of course a whole range of things are trialled before they're used, whether it be pharmaceuticals or GM plants, and before they're released commercially, they're assessed to be safe," he said.

Mr Papalia says the Government needs to ensure the crop is not planted on any site in WA.