1.Uncovered, the "toxic" gene hiding in GM crops: Revelation throws new doubt over safety of foods
2.Hidden viral gene revealed in GMOs – EFSA's "review" not enough
1.Uncovered, the 'toxic" gene hiding in GM crops: Revelation throws new doubt over safety of foods
Sean Poulter, Consumer Affairs Editor
Daily Mail, 21 January 2013
*EU watchdog reveals approval for GM foods fails to identify poisonous gene
*54 of the 86 GM plants approved contain the dangerous gene
*Gene found in food for farm animals producing meat, milk, and eggs
*Biotech supporters argue there is no evidence that GM foods are harmful
A virus gene that could be poisonous to humans has been missed when GM food crops have been assessed for safety.
GM crops such as corn and soya, which are being grown around the world for both human and farm animal consumption, include the gene.
A new study by the EU's official food watchdog, the European Food Safety Authority(EFSA), has revealed that the international approval process for GM crops failed to identify the gene.
As a result, watchdogs have not investigated its impact on human health and the plants themselves when assessing whether they were safe.
The findings are particularly powerful because the work was carried out by independent experts, rather than GM critics.
It was led by Nancy Podevin, who was employed by EFSA, and Patrick du Jardin, of the Plant Biology Unit at the University of Liege in Belgium.
They discovered that 54 of the 86 GM plants approved for commercial growing and food in the US, including corn and soya, contain the viral gene, which is known as "Gene VI".
In this country, these crops are typically fed to farm animals producing meat, milk, and eggs.
Significantly, the EFSA researchers concluded that the presence of segments of Gene VI "might result in unintended phenotypic changes".
Such changes include the creation of proteins that are toxic to humans. They could also trigger changes in the plants themselves, making them more vulnerable to pests.
Critics say the revelations make clear that the GM approvals process, which has been in place for 20 years, is fatally flawed.
They argue the only correct response is to recall all of the crops and food products involved. Director of the campaigning group, GM Freeze, Pete Riley, said the discovery of the gene, "totally undermines claims that GM technology is safe, precise and predictable".
He said: "This is a clear warning the GM is not sufficiently understood to be considered safe. 'Authorisation for these crops must be suspended immediately, and they should be withdrawn from sale, until a full and extended review of their safety has been carried out."
Typically, GM crops are modified in the laboratory to give them resistance to being sprayed with powerful weed killers such as Monsanto's Round-up.
This means that, in theory, fields can be doused with the chemical, so wiping out the weeds and allowing the food plants to thrive.
The modification process involves inserting genes into the plants using a technique that allows them to piggyback on viruses that are commonly found in the soil and plants.
It has been assumed that virus genes are not present in the plant once it is grown in the field and reaches consumers, however it is now clear that this is not the case.
A review of the EFSA research in Independent Science News said the presence of the viral gene appears to have been missed by biotech companies, universities and government regulators.
"This situation represents a complete and catastrophic system failure," it said. "There are clear indications that this viral gene might not be safe for human consumption. It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance.
"A reasonable concern is that the protein produced by Gene VI might be a human toxin. This is a question that can only be answered by future experiments."
Biotech supporters argue that there is no evidence from countries such as the USA that eating GM food causes any harm.
However, the reality is that no health monitoring has taken place to establish this. The findings will embarrass the government and the food and farming Secretary, Owen Patterson, who has embarked on a pro-GM propaganda exercise designed to win over sceptical consumers.
Mr Patterson recently rejected public concerns as "humbug" and "complete nonsense". Policy director at the Soil Association, Peter Melchett said: "For years, GM companies have made a deliberate and chilling effort to stop independent scientists from looking at their products.
"This is what happens when there is a complete absence of independent scrutiny of their GM crops." Biotech firms are represented by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council(ABC).
Its chairman, Dr Julian Little, said the EFSA study was one small part of a strict and complex scrutiny process.
He said: "Over the past 25 years, the European Commission has funded more than 130 research projects involving 500 independent research groups which have found no higher risks to the environment or food chain from GM crops than from conventional plants and organisms.
"Furthermore, nearly three trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten without a single substantiated case of ill-health. The combination of these two facts can give consumers a huge amount of confidence in the safety of GM crops."
2.Hidden viral gene revealed in GMOs – EFSA's "review" not enough
GM Freeze, 21 January 2013
Biotech industry claims, and regulator reassurances, that GM technology is predictable and safe have been shaken by the discovery of viral gene sequence in many GM crops. Two thirds of GM crops approved in the US contain the hitherto unidentified viral gene, but although regulators have insufficient information to determine if it is safe for human consumption EFSA has opted for a retrospective review rather than a ban.
The existence of the Gene VI viral gene was revealed in a study authored by EFSA staff and published in the journal GM Crops and Food.  The gene is in many widely-grown GM crops, including Monsanto’s RR MON810 soya, NK603 maize and other crops imported to the EU for food and animal feed.
The discovery raises two significant problems:
*That safety assessments for GM food and feed did not detect the presence of the gene previously, despite assurances that the technology is predictable and the crops are safe.
*The gene sequence itself could affect the way plants function, potentially creating unexpected allergens or toxins or affecting the crop’s defences against diseases.
Researchers found Gene VI in 54 of the 86 GM crops currently approved in the US. It is linked to the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus promoter gene used in many of the GM traits already in crop plants, but the gene may affect other aspects of the genetic performance of the plant with unknown, unintended consequences. Scientists are concerned the gene could disturb the normal functions of crop plants, and while there is insufficient data available to determine what impacts this might have, researchers have already identified three potential mechanisms for plant function to be disrupted:
*The gene sequence could make plants more susceptible to some pathogens and less to others. This could have a serious impact on crop health.
*Interference with messenger RNA, which relay information from the plant's DNA to the structures that build proteins. This means the sequence could induce plants to produce novel proteins with unknown impacts on plant, human or animal health.
*Gene silencing, which could lead to genes that are normally turned on being turned off, which could in turn interfere with plant’s defences.
Gene VI was tested against known toxins and allergens, but such evaluation will miss novel proteins and/or toxins being produced by the gene in plants. It is impossible to determine if these are present or harmful without further study.
Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:
“This discovery of this previously unidentified gene in GM crops raises serious concern about the safety of GM food and feed. It totally undermines claims that GM technology is safe, precise and predictable.
“The very existence of Gene VI has been missed for many years, so we don’t know what implications it might have. It is impossible to say if this has already resulted in harm to human or animal health, and since there is still no GM labelling in places like the US where GM is more common the diet, no epidemiological studies can be carried out. Possible harmful effects of GMOs could easily be lost in the general morass of ailments which vets and medics have to deal with on a daily basis, especially if these were as result of low level exposure over several years, and the link to GM could take many years to establish that way.
“This is a clear warning the GM is not sufficiently understood to be considered safe. EFSA cannot continue to take risks with public health. Authorisation for these crops must be suspended immediately, and they should be withdrawn from sale, until a full and extended review of their safety has been carried out.”
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065
 Podevin N and du Jardin P, 2012. “Possible consequences of the overlap between the CaMV 35S promoter regions in plant transformation vectors used and the viral gene VI in transgenic plants”. GM Crops and Food 3: 296-300.