New Safety Switch Built For Genetically Modified Bacteria

by Michael Keller

Engineers making a nip here and a tuck there to the genes of bacteria are domesticating the microbes to do our bidding. Over recent years, genetic modification has tallied successes from making electricity-eating bacteria produce liquid biofuels to altering gut microbes to battle metabolic disorders like diabetes and obesity. Researchers are coaxing common species like E. coli and more exotic ones to convert harmful pollutants to benign compounds and to produce next-generation pharmaceuticals and chemical feedstock for industry.

Tangling with the blueprints of life is no simple task, though, and even successes in the lab demand serious considerations about unintended consequences in the field. What happens if a bacterium designed to work in an isolated system, say a drug-producing fermentation tank, gets out into the wild? And what is the impact when you employ bacteria modified to consume a cancer-causing pollutant that has leaked into a wetland?

Bioengineers looking to improve the safety of modified microbes are working on a number of routes. One of these reprograms a bacterial cell to need a certain nutrient to live; without it, the organism dies. Another buries a self-destruct sequence in the genes that stops them from making proteins when exposed to chemical signals.

Now, two papers published recently in the journal Nature take safety mechanisms built into altered bacteria a step further. Harvard and Yale researchers say they have successfully made organisms that can only survive when they have access to synthetic amino acids that don’t exist in nature. Their test bacteria were reprogrammed at multiple points along their genome to need the synthetic food, making them unable to mutate to live on naturally occurring amino acids.

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"WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children."

Genetically Modified Potato Is Approved by U.S.D.A.

A potato genetically engineered to eliminate a potentially harmful ingredient that emerges in the high heat required for French fries and potato chips has been approved for commercial planting, the Department of Agriculture announced Friday.”

Learn more from the nytimes.

Pictured above: A genetically modified Innate potato, left, made by J.R. Simplot, next to a bruised conventional potato. 

  • ANTIBIOTIC-FREE

That animal was not given any antibiotics during its lifetime

  • CAGE-FREE  

birds are raised without cages - ALTHOUGH it doesn’t specify whether the birds were raised outdoors or if they were raised indoors in overcrowded conditions.

  • FAIR TRADE

farmers and workers have received a fair wage and worked in acceptable conditions

  • FREE-RANGE

"The label can be used as long as the producers allow the birds access to the outdoors so that they can engage in natural behaviors. It does not necessarily mean that the products are cruelty-free or antibiotic-free, or that the animals spent the majority of their time outdoors. Claims are defined by the USDA, but are not verified by third-party inspectors. " (IIN)

  • GMO-FREE, NON-GMO, OR NO GMOS

not genetically modified

  • GRAIN-FED

Animals raised on grain ( check for 100% vegetarian diet to ensure they weren’t fed any animal by-products

  • GRASS-FED

animals fed grass (natural diet) instead of grain/animal byproducts/synthetic hormones and sometimes antibiotics. look for grass fed AND grass finished (not fed grain before slaughter)

  • HEALTHY

must be low in saturated fat, and only small amounts of cholesterol and sodium. Some must also contain 10% of either vitamins A or C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber. 

  • HERITAGE

"A “heritage” label describes a rare and endangered breed of livestock or crops. Heritage breeds are traditional livestock that were raised by farmers in the past, before industrial agriculture drastically reduced breed variety. These animals are prized for their rich taste, and they usually contain a higher fat content than commercial breeds. Production standards are not required by law, but true heritage farmers use sustainable production methods. This method of production saves animals from extinction and preserves genetic diversity. " (IIN)

  • HORMONE-FREE

(i.e. no added hormones) animals raised without added growth hormones (hogs and poultry cannot be given hormones by law

  • NATURAL

no standards for any food except meat and poultry. These products (meat and poultry) have to undergo minimal processing, no artificial colors/flavors/ preservatives, etc. 

  • NON-IRRADIATED

Food isn’t exposed to radiation

  • PASTURE-RAISED

a traditional farming technique where animals are raised on a pasture where they can graze on grass and other plants. Very humane. (similar to grass fed except pasture raised indicates that the animals were raised outdoors)

  • ORGANIC 

"All organic agricultural farms and products must meet the following guidelines (verified by a USDA- approved independent agency):

  • Abstain from the application of prohibited materials (including synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge) for three years prior to certification and then continually throughout their organic license.
  • Prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms and irradiation.
  • Employ positive soil building, conservation, manure management, and crop rotation practices.
  • Provide outdoor access and pasture for livestock.
  • Refrain from antibiotic and hormone use in animals.
  • Sustain animals on 100% organic feed.
  • Avoid contamination during the processing of organic products.
  • Keep records of all operations.

If a product contains the “USDA Organic” seal, it means that 95 to 100% of its ingredients are organic. Products with 70 to 95% organic ingredients can still advertise “organic ingredients” on the front of the package, and products with less than 70% organic ingredients can identify them on the side panel. Organic foods prohibit the use of hydrogenation and trans fats. ” (IIN)

  • RBGH-FREE OR RBST-FREE

RBGH is a growth hormone that artificially increases the milk production in cows. RGBH has not been properly tested and is not allowed in the European Union, Canada and some other countries. 

SOURCES: Institute of Integrative Nutrition, http://sustainabletable.org

80% of Americans shocked to find there's DNA in food!

You’ve got to hand it to the anti-GMO people. They sure know how to market.  Support for government-mandated labeling of genetically modified food is at an all time high (whatever happened to liberty and personal responsibility?).  But just how educated are people on what they’re eating?  

A new poll find that people will blindly support government-mandated labeling of foods, even if it something that virtually 100% of foods contain. 

from Consumer Affairs:

All of these are standard questions covered in every FooDS. But on page 4, it says that “Three new ad hoc questions were added to the survey this month,” and the first question asks whether people support or oppose various government policies related to agricultural matters: 80.44% of respondents said they would support “Mandatory labels on foods containing DNA.” That’s only slightly less than the 82.28% who support “Mandatory labels on foods produced with genetic engineering.”

Ilya Somin, writing about the survey at the Washington Post, suggested that a mandatory label for foods containing DNA might sound like this:

WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.

(Somin’s warning neglects to mention that sexually active men are also at high risk of passing DNA down to their children, unless the men wear a condom.)

The joke, of course, is that DNA is the hereditary material found in the cells of human beings and almost all living organisms – including all the different meat and plant products people eat. Labeling all food containing DNA would be almost as pointless as labeling foods that contain atoms.

One question the survey did not ask was whether people would support mandatory labeling (or even possible bans) of food items containing the potentially deadly chemical “dihydrogen monoxide.”

There is a well-known joke/prank wherein people will discuss the dangers of the chemical “dihydrogen monoxide” (or even collect signatures on petitions urging that dihydrogen monoxide be banned).

Search online for information about dihydrogen monoxide, and you’ll find a long list of scary-sounding and absolutely true warnings about it: the nuclear power industry uses enormous quantities of it every year. Dihydrogen monoxide is used in the production of many highly toxic pesticides, and chemical weapons banned by the Geneva Conventions. Dihydrogen monoxide is found in all tumors removed from cancer patients, and is guaranteed fatal to humans in large quantities – though even small quantities can kill you, if it enters your respiratory system.

So is dihydrogen monoxide safe for human consumption? Of course. It’s not just safe, it’s mandatory: dihydrogen monoxide, the molecule consisting of two atoms of hydrogen for every one of oxygen, is just another way of saying “water.”

Not that any sane person would ever recommend banning water – but plenty of sane (though ill-informed) people have considered banning “dihydrogen monoxide,” because it’s a big intimidating multi-syllabic phrase that sounds all scary and chemical-y. And the latest issue of Oklahoma State’s FooDS survey suggests that even DNA – the building blocks of life itself – is equally scary and intimidating to people who don’t know what it is.

read the rest

This poll serves to demonstrate how powerful the bandwagon is and how easy it is to instill fear in an uninformed group of people.  That fear can easily be manipulated into support for more government power over individuals and the economy. 

My point here isn’t to disparage anyone who has made the decision to eat non-GMO or organic foods.  If you feel like that’s a healthier lifestyle choice, good for you.  You go right ahead and eat what you want.  

What I do have a big problem with is people who want to force their lifestyle choices on everyone else or make everyone else’s lifestyle choices more expensive by mandating government regulations.  Eat what you want to, and, by all means, educate people on what you believe are healthy choices. But don’t look to the government to interfere with businesses and private individuals. 

Genetically modified food is in a store near you today. In fact, it’s been there for years. You may not know it, but in all the fracas over genetically modified food, one point is often left out: You’ve been eating it for a long time and no one has told you. This infographic from #Nature’s Path—which makes #organic cereals, bars, and waffles that contain no #GMO ingredients, they’d like you to know—shows where you’re getting your genetically modified treats, and why no one has told you: Many crops are genetically modified so frequently, it’s nearly impossible to find non-GMO versions. These modifications usually involve either a seed manufacturer making their seeds genetically resistant to a certain type of weed-killer (that the seed company also conveniently sells—synergy!) or to make plants resistant to certain pests naturally. #SayNoToGmo #4biddenknowledge

#TransPacificPartnership #TPP #stopTPP #shutdowntheTPP #NoFastTrackForTPP #GMO #noGMO #MAM #MAMNYC #MarchAgainstMonsanto #frackfree #foodjustice #climatejustice

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Do you eat food? You should probably be concerned with the fight for GMO labeling

The fight for GMO labeling should be understood just as widely as the pro-marijuana legalization movement. After all, seeing as you need food to survive, you might want to understand the limited choice that stocks grocery store shelves. Read more: Do you eat food? You should probably be concerned with the fight for GMO labeling

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