Richard Wolfson, PhD
Iriffids -- From Fiction to Fact Alan McHughen, professor and senior research scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, has developed a genetically engineered (GE) flax seed that is almost impossible.
Iriffids -- From Fiction to Fact
Alan McHughen, professor and senior research scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, has developed a genetically engineered (GE) flax seed that is almost impossible to kill with herbicides. He has named his creation "the triffid," in reference to John Wyndham’s 1953 novel, The Day of the Triffids.
In the book, the triffid was a terrifying flesh eating plant that was almost impossible to kill. Prairie farmers have already reported that herbicide resistant plants are spreading like wildfire, creating problems for farmers.
No Frankenfries Please
Cavendish Farms, which manufactures French fries on PEI, is no longer accepting genetically engineered potatoes. The company, owned by the Irving family of New Brunswick, is responding to concerns by the public and retail food chains.
McCain’s, PEI’s other large processing plant, is also not accepting GE potatoes.
Contamination in Australia
Monsanto recently admitted that many tonnes of GE cotton seed had inadvertently been mixed with non-GE seed and released on the Australian market. The company said they had no way of knowing where the seed had ended up, and conjectured that it could have entered the food chain as cattle feed.
FOX-TV Loses Lawsuit
A Tampa jury in Florida, recently returned a verdict against FOX-TV for firing reporters after they refused to alter a story on genetically engineered bovine growth hormones (rBGHs). The jury awarded investigative reporter Jane Akre $450,000 in damages.
The jury concluded that she was fired from her job at FOX affiliate WTVT in Tampa for threatening to report to the Federal Communications Commission that the station wanted her to broadcast a false and misleading news report about Monsanto’s rBGH.
Monarch Research Replicated
Scientists at Iowa State University have replicated a recent Cornell study showing that monarch butterflies die after eating pollen from genetically engineered Bt corn. The Cornell study had recently been criticized by biotech advocates.
However, both sets of researchers have now shown that the Bt corn, genetically engineered to contain a toxin to kill insect pests, can also kill monarch butterflies.
In the fields, pollen from the Bt crops would naturally spread to adjoining milkweed plants, which the monarch larvae eat. More than half of the larvae died after eating Bt pollen.
Bunnies Impervious to Disease
Researchers in Spain have created a genetically engineered virus that acts on rabbits like a vaccine. The virus can spread from rabbit to rabbit, making the rabbits immune to two major diseases. Some scientists are concerned, since in areas where rabbits are spreading wildly, diseases are one of the only factors limiting the population size.
In the UK, rabbits cause up to £100 million worth of damage annually.
Biotech Crops Threaten Skylarks
A recent study in the UK, published in Science, reports that widespread use of genetically engineered herbicide-resistant crops could reduce the skylark population by up to 90 per cent.
Herbicide-resistant crops allow farmers to use more powerful herbicides and increased quantities of the chemicals to eliminate weeds. As a result, the skylark would lose its main food source, seeds from weeds.
"Eliminate Terminator" Outcry
Eleven members of the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have sent a strong letter to the government recommending that it not support "terminator technology."
The USDA and industry together own the patent on terminator, a genetic technology that causes plants to produce sterile seeds. Consequently, farmers are forced to buy new seeds every year.
"Terminator technology has only one primary purpose--to allow private companies to exert greater control over the seed markets and extract more income from farmers forced to buy their products on an annual basis," wrote the eleven members of the 38 member panel.
Check Your Seed Packs
When legume seeds are sold to farmers, the seeds can come pre-inoculated with bacteria that is meant to improve the soil. Farmers should be wary of these pre-inoculated seeds, because some of them are genetically engineered. Some organic farmers have lost certification on fields planted with seed that came pre-inoculated with GE bacteria.