If you don’t want your food genetically modified, tell nature to stop it.

A scientist shows "Golden Rice" and ordinary rice at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos

A scientist shows “Golden Rice” (R) and ordinary rice at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Laguna, south of Manila, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Chipotle hit the headlines last week when the company announced it would no longer serve customers genetically modified foods. This despite the fact that more than a trillion meals containing genetically modified food have already been eaten in the United States without incident. Science has decisively found that these foods have no negative impact on health.

Chipotle’s move seems to be based more on marketing than on science.

Recent research drives home how misled alarmists are about genetically modified food. All human beings, two Cambridge University scientists have established, are genetically modified, including Chipotle’s customers. Over the years, hundreds of foreign genes have jumped into human DNA through a natural phenomenon called “gene flow.” As a result, all humans carry genes that originated in algae, bacteria and fungi.

If humans can safely accept alien genes without mishap, why not food, too?

Farmers and breeders have for centuries used cross-breeding to improve the genetic characteristics of crops and animals. Because this process involves gene transfers within the same species, environmental advocates label it “natural” — even though cross-breeding is clearly man-made. Modern genetic splicing makes it possible to combine genes from completely different species to produce much-needed products, including pest-resistant and high-yielding crops.

Agriculturists prepares to plant "Golden Rice" seedlings at a laboratory of the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos

Agriculturists prepares to plant “Golden Rice” seedlings at a laboratory of the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Laguna, south of Manila, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The Bt gene from pest-resistant bacteria, for example, has been inserted into cotton to create a pest-resistant Bt cotton. The combination has greatly raised yields and reduced pesticide use. But some activists condemn this as a crime against nature.

When fears about genetically modified foods first arose, little was known about gene flow, also called horizontal gene transfer. The idea that genes could jump across species violated then-conventional wisdom. But scientific research has established that natural gene transfers regularly occur. So genetic transfers are not a human invention — just a belated human effort to imitate what nature has been doing all along.

This discovery has convinced some longtime campaigners against genetically modified crops to make a U-turn. British author and journalist Mark Lynas, for example, converted from being an activist opposed to genetically modified food to a firm supporter in a notable 2013 mea culpa speech, in which he apologized for letting his opinions trump the scientific data.

Scientists once thought that gene transfers occurred naturally only in simple organisms like bacteria. But research shows that transfers are also common in complex species, including human beings. Does this genetic intrusion make humans a monster species? Hardly.

The Economist used the headline “Genetically Modified People” for a report on genetic research by Alastair Crisp and Chiara Boschetti, the two Cambridge scientists. They have identified 145 genes that have crossed over from other species to humans.

TO MATCH FEATURE FRANCE-WINE

A genetically modified grape vine plant in an enclosure of the state-financed National Institute for Agricultural Research site in Colmar, eastern France, September 14, 2005. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

This is, of course, a tiny fraction of the 20,000 odd genes in a human body. Why then should environmentalists lose sleep over the introduction of a single alien gene into crops?

Research on gene flow is still in its infancy. It could ultimately reveal thousands of alien genes that have entered human DNA. This should be no surprise: Nature has had almost a million years to do its work.

One gene identified by the Cambridge researchers helps hold cells together; it crossed over into humans from a fungus. Marine algae appear to be the source of another human gene associated with fat mass. Bacteria have provided a third gene that helps define blood groups.

Apart from human transfers, the scientists examined gene transfers in nine other primate species, 12 fruit fly species and four nematode worms. They found that the phenomenon was ubiquitous. The researchers considered the possibility that what looked like gene transfers between species might actually be genes both had inherited from a common ancestor millions of years ago.

Genes found in another animal could be a common ancient inheritance. But genes in animals that came from plants or bacteria would almost certainly represent gene flow. Crisp and Boschetti found that, on average, worms had 173 gene transfers, fruit flies 40, and primates had 109. Humans, with 145 transfers, were more genetically modified than other primates.

The researchers found two imported genes for amino-acid metabolism, 13 for fat metabolism and 15 for modifying large molecules. They identified five immigrant genes that generated valuable anti-oxidants, and seven that aided the immune system.

Far from creating monsters, the scientists found that genes from alien species appear beneficial. Activists against genetically modified organisms can argue that natural gene transfers have been spaced out over millennia, giving species time to adapt. But every time a natural gene transfer occurred, it carried the same risks as the insertion of a Bt gene into cotton or eggplants.

Besides, all crops, genetically modified or otherwise, are field-tested for safety before commercial release. The United States has approved dozens of genetically modified crops for commercial use. Virtually all U.S. corn and soybeans today are genetically modified.

Chipotle’s claim of serving food free of genetic modifications is dubious because the meats it serves come from animals and chickens likely fed on genetically modified corn and soybean meal. More important, why should Chipotle even make the claim when its own customers are genetically modified?

40 comments

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“more than a trillion meals containing genetically modified food have already been eaten in the United States without incident. Science has decisively found that these foods have no negative impact on health”

yeah, right…..

translation from Mudspeak:

“no discernible short term effects, any long term effects will not be understood with any certainty.

tort claims will not be enforceable, as any damage will be diffused within the environment.

the manta of plausible deniability and externalized responsibility will work here”

Posted by Robertla | Report as abusive

You only mention Bt corn and the reduction in pesticide use. But what about roundup ready modified seeds? These plants appear to require ever growing amounts of the pesticide roundup, linked to possible carcinogenic effects in humans and dying of the bees. It feels like you do not address the full story about GMO.

Posted by Woodchipper | Report as abusive

For me the issue is not so much GMO’s, but full disclosure in labeling.

Allow consumers the choice.

Posted by Flash1022 | Report as abusive

Logic’s fine – but how about commitment. Once your sponsors (Monsanto?) put up a fund large enough for the damages claim for the next thalidimide we will eat your food. Until then, no thanks.

Posted by BidnisMan | Report as abusive

Logic’s fine – but how about commitment. Once your sponsors (Monsanto?) put up a fund large enough for the damages claim for the next thalidimide we will eat your food. Until then, no thanks.

Posted by BidnisMan | Report as abusive

Not sure why Reuters would publish this rehash of the same talking points we hear all the time. The only thing new is some flat-out misinformation — “all crops are field-tested for safety before release.” (Actually even GM plants may evade all regulatory oversight — like Scotts GM bluegrass.) And the contrived argument that natural movement of genes is the same thing as crop genetic modification. Right. And swatting a fly is the same thing as spraying a field with DDT — they’re both insecticidal.

Posted by TDavies | Report as abusive

Please put more Round Up on my food!Let’s give Mother Nature to continue to create “Super Bugs” and Super Weeds”. In the long run crop rotation and less invasive farming techniques have proven more effective and economical.

Posted by thunder12345 | Report as abusive

GM foods are safe only if grown organically without chemicals of any kind. This article fails to note the huge amounts of the carcinogenic pesticides, such as round up, that are necessary to kill weeds in the fields where our food is grown. The food injests the the pesticides that is applied to leaves/fronds and watered into the soil. These poisonious and carcinogenic substance are then ingested by our bodies. Perhaps the author should do some independent due diligence on the harmful effects of these substances before claiming GM foods grown w/the use of pesticides are safe to eat. Monsanto is not the only seed company making GM seeds. Also, I would like the author to tell us why European Countries are banning GM foods if they are so safe.

We all need to remember, businesses are in business to make money! No other reason. The seeds of plants grown from GM seeds will not grow a new plant. That means farmers have to buy seed every year. More money for the seed companies who are chemical companies producing the pesticides and fertilizer used to grow our foods.

Posted by xkjd | Report as abusive

There is so much false information on the web about GMO’s. This review can help people learn about the real science.

http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/20 14/10/28/not-all-science-is-created-equa l-the-genetically-engineered-crops-story  /

Posted by WRW | Report as abusive

Wikipedia’s profile of the author of this article states he works for a think tank called Cato Institute, and this presents a serious conflict of interest. According to the wiki for think tanks run by Center for Media and Democracy, the largest donor, and original namesake of Cato are the Koch brothers, who are heavily invested in the beef industry. According to Andrea Germanos the Kochs are also a joint partner with Monsanto in the Grocery Manufacturers Association, an industry lobbying group opposed to labeling of genetically modified foods. It would be nice for Reuters to include this potential conflict of interest in the article, considering their subject is about the practices of mainly large private interests, and their relation to public understanding of their products.

Posted by L_T | Report as abusive

The most pressing concern about GMOs is seed sovereignty and loss of seed diversity. With genetic modification, industrial patents on seeds become possible, thereby affecting the ability of farmer’s to save seed. The real concern is having our food fully owned and controlled by publicly traded entities. This is also true of most non-GMO hybridized seeds, which can also be patented. Both these types of seeds may not be saved to be planted the following year. The potential loss of seed diversity has encouraged many individuals to start seed saving to preserve nature’s creations.

Posted by 8forward5 | Report as abusive

I’m seriously questioning why Reuters would post this pro-corporate article, one with such obvious bias and straw-man arguments, as news. Thank you, Reuters. Now I’m much more likely to question any stories you post as “news” for possible corporate funding or motivational propaganda.

Posted by nycam | Report as abusive

Buy organic, or don’t. Certified organic food contains no GMO’s. I don’t see the point of protesting GMO’s. Just vote with your wallet or grow your own.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Stimulating demands for GMO labeling or bans, the prestigious IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) of the World Health Organization published a report3 in March 2015 declaring that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide (active agent glyphosate), sprayed heavily on 84 percent of all GMO crops (including soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets) is a “probable carcinogen.”

After reviewing 44 scientific studies, half of the IARC panel thought that that glyphosate should be classified as a Group 1 “known carcinogen,” with the other half opting for a Group 2 “probable carcinogen” rating.

Given the fact that new peer-reviewed studies damning glyphosate are being published nearly every week, the IARC may very well reclassify glyphosate as a “known carcinogen” in the near future. Monsanto, the FDA, or the Biotechnology Industry Organization are asked whether GMO-tainted foods are safe, notice that they always say that GMOs as “just as safe” as “conventional” (i.e. chemical and drug-tainted) foods, and pose no “unique” risks to human health or the environment. In a twisted sense they are right, because both GMO and non-GMO chemical-intensive, factory-farmed crops and foods are dangerous.

Both GMO and non-GMO chemical-intensive foods destroy public health, animal health, soil health, the environment, and are the major driving forces behind global warming and climate change.

GMOs and Roundup, neonicotinoids, 2,4 D, atrazine, glufosinate, and dicamba—and all the other chemicals being sprayed on the food that we eat, and ultimately running off into water that we drink—are poison. The major reason chronic diseases like cancer, autism, diabetes, and obesity, along with reproductive, behavioral, endocrine and immune system disorders, are spiraling out of control is that our environment is toxic, and we are ingesting, from the womb, to the hospital, to the grave—poisoned, pesticide-laden food.

Posted by Fearless_Leader | Report as abusive

Currently 64 nations require mandatory labeling of GMOs.

Numerous states and regions in the European Union, and several dozen entire nations, including Switzerland, timulating demands for GMO labeling or bans, the prestigious IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) of the World Health Organization published a report3 in March 2015 declaring that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide (active agent glyphosate), sprayed heavily on 84 percent of all GMO crops (including soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets) is a “probable carcinogen.”

After reviewing 44 scientific studies, half of the IARC panel thought that that glyphosate should be classified as a Group 1 “known carcinogen,” with the other half opting for a Group 2 “probable carcinogen” rating.

, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, and Russia, have banned GMO crops altogether.2

In the European Union (EU), where mandatory labeling laws are in effect, little or no GMO crops or food are on the market (except for imported GMO animal feed). In addition to banning GMOs, a growing number of countries, including El Salvador and Sri Lanka, have begun to ban the use of Monsanto’s Roundup.

This toxic herbicide is sprayed heavily on 84 percent of all GMO crops, and increasingly applied as a pre-harvest desiccant, or drying agent, on scores of other non-GMO crops including wheat, rice, beans, potatoes, barley, oats, flax, peas, lentils, and sugar cane.

Posted by Fearless_Leader | Report as abusive

You either like the idea of a few huge corporations having all the say-so on what seeds are available, how farming is done, and how food will be distributed, or you don’t. If you like the idea of more corporatization of the food supply you are probably okay with gmos. If you prefer more diversity in this area, then you probably aren’t a fan. Any article about gmos that doesn’t include the word Monsanto shows that the author doesn’t understand the issues.

Posted by JBookly | Report as abusive

Humans can safely accept alien genes without mishap? Aiyar clearly doesn’t understand the concept of natural selection. We are the progeny of those who survived horizontal gene transfers. The mishap cases died out. Aiyar writes them off in order to write off mishaps in the present. “Nature has had almost a million years to do its work.” Yes indeed, Dr. Moreau.

Posted by lessbread | Report as abusive

RE: “The genetically engineered crops story” link

“Most of the testing is done by the companies that wish to market any given GE crop.”

Now that’s reassuring! LOL Can you say “conflict of interest”?

“nutritionally equivalent to their non-GM counterparts”

And that means they won’t cause cancer?

“An allergic reaction can develop against any type of food. […] Developers do not use organisms that cause food allergies as source of genes.”

Contradiction.

Posted by lessbread | Report as abusive

Another Monsanto advocate.

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

Reuters, Reuters, Reuters…

Posted by toktomi | Report as abusive

nice propaganda…people have been genetically modified…lol
yeah, maybe over the course of 10,000 years, not by a monsanto chemist

Posted by jimst | Report as abusive

yeah and introducing the cane toad into Australia worked out great..

Posted by raywolfson | Report as abusive

When did nature start using bioballistics and gene guns to take gold nanoparticles covered in selected DNA and shoot them into plant cells? All in the name of making plant seeds sold by Monsanto to be resistant to Chemicals sold by Monsanto. Seems like like a lot of $$$ to be lost if truth got out to the masses about long term risks. I am waiting for the smear campaign against the WHO for listing glyphosate as a carcinogen.

Posted by Oregon_grown | Report as abusive

If you want to see genetic modification, just look at dogs.

Posted by pbgd | Report as abusive

The heavy lobbying AGAINST GMO labeling, by Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, is pretty telling. What they are admitting, by refusing to label and disclose (while citing the high cost of tracking), is that they don’t know where this stuff ends up.

“It’s everywhere, don’t worry!” is a pretty weak substitute for public re-assurance. This is why the leading food biotech companies are in this downward PR spiral, and food service fight. It’s their own fault.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Thalidomide was not a genetic modification. It was a dangerous drug made in Europe and never permitted into the US which has stricter drug controls than Europe.

Posted by pbgd | Report as abusive

Yep this guy’s bio sure gives a few hints he might be swayed by right wing, for corp (More) profit…Yep glad to see a story on this stuff, not authored by someone with a very high political party ax to grind…Same ole same, guess we need not ask his “expert opinion” on Global Warming..

Posted by fwrfwr | Report as abusive

By the way, ‘cross-breeding’ or in other words ‘hybrid is in no way the same as genetically altering an organism in the lab. Plenty organic farmers including myself will use hybrid seeds. It’s like a tall person mating with another tall person to try to have tall kids because they want to form a basket ball team…

Posted by RabbitInTheMoon | Report as abusive

One of the key papers mentioned in this article is available Open Access here
Crisp and colleagues 2015 Genome Science
http://genomebiology.com/2015/16/1/50

It provides very strong evidence that in animals, gene moment from unrelated organisms is frequent, pervasive and ongoing on an evolutionary timescale.It essentially ends the scientific controversy on this topic.

Posted by GMOPUNDIT | Report as abusive

To say that GM foods have “no negative impact on health” is naive at best.

One quick example: whether through GM means or “cross-breeding,” we now have wheat and other grains that bear no resemblance to their ancestors from just 100 years ago. These genetically modified, cheap, nutrition-void and fiber-void grains are now the leading cause of heart disease and diabetes worldwide.

Thanks to cross-breeding and genetic modification (and the wonderful people of Monsanto) we can all enjoy food that is killing us at a great price!

Try reporting a little more honestly next time.

Posted by MunchHausen | Report as abusive

Naturally genetically modified foods (or humans) are controlled (obviously) by nature, not by an individual or corporation that fully understands the consequences of the design but seeks an objective of profitability. Although Darwinian observations are (to a degree) accurate, human actions (and efforts) are in contradiction to his observations, thus potentially weakening the balance of nature.

Thus, controls are necessary. The choice will be made by the populations (i.e., how we spend our money).

Posted by nbtween | Report as abusive

Search shows the author as a research fellow with CATO INSTITUTE.. Source Watch states: “The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers.” The American Legislative Exchange (also Koch-linked) promulgates model state bills to preempt GMO labeling.

Related to this pro-GMO campaign against Chipotles, ECOWATCH article “Chipotle Under Attack for Going GMO Free” by Ronnie Cummins, May 20, 2015.

http://ecowatch.com/2015/05/20/chipotle- under-attack-gmo/

Posted by BelleVeritas | Report as abusive

Looking at the comments, a few things should be pointed out:

Concerning labeling:
Genetically modified foods make up most of the food available to eat in the US. We should not label foods that are genetically modified, we should label foods that are organic (and we are).

Concerning Monsanto:
Being a supporter of genetically modified food does not make one a supporter of monsanto. I support Genetically Modified foods but feel that Monsanto is unethical.

Concerning health:
Saying that because there are forms of genetically modified foods that are known to have negative health consequences we should ban GMO’s is like saying that because there are types of vaccines that have negative health consequences (not referring to autism because that is BS) we should ban all vaccines. Our focus should be how we can improve GMO’s, not how we can regress them. Without GMO’s we would be unable to feed the world’s population and, as a result, billions (no exaggeration) would die.

Furthermore, GMOs are MADE to be more NUTRITIOUS, they DO NOT taste worst than organic food (I refer you to social experiments conducted) and yes, pretty much all food is genetically modified because we’ve been modifying food since the agricultural revolution. The more appropriate term is Genetically Engineered Organisms.

Posted by PorkCow | Report as abusive

What this apparently sponsored article seems to ignore is that any “natural” genetic modifications have taken place over generations – errors were corrected (normally by killing the “host”). What Monsanto are doing is forcing modifications over a too short time period without proper checks and balances – and I really fear for my grandchildren. What is happening in Argentina should be a salutary lesson for us all!

Posted by gdinfrance | Report as abusive

How conservatives show their ignorance of science: denying climate change. How liberals show their ignorance of science: freaking out over genetically modified foods.

Posted by daveyjoe | Report as abusive

Nature doesn’t put fish genes in tomatoes. Very disingenuous title and article. Paid Monsanto shill?

Posted by Moric | Report as abusive

“So genetic transfers are not a human invention — just a belated human effort to imitate what nature has been doing all along.”

As you then mention later as a counter-argument, this practice is spaced out over millenia, and IN ADDITION is a NATURALLY occurring process theoretically due to some new need/change in our world / environment.

Forcing the entire planet to all adopt these modification techniques only exacerbates the issue of that “Risk” you point out at the end. Sure there was risk for certain groups of humans, and even some may die out due to something negative being taken into the body. However, when ALL human beings are now being exposed to the same unknown effects, the risk is now on a global scale.

Posted by pyradius | Report as abusive

Oh and here is an interesting story on the Lynas “conversion”.

Posted by pyradius | Report as abusive

This is the Mark Lynas mentioned in the above article, right?

http://www.alternet.org/food/uncovering- real-story-behind-mark-lynas-conversion- climate-change-journalist-cheerleader

Posted by pyradius | Report as abusive

This blog seems being based on rumors, not on science.
Via long term observation, scientists have found that GMO food can damage animal health.
NIH has already published many articles indicating serious risks regarding gmo food.
WHO has already announced that glyphosate (tolerated by GMO crops) can cause cancer.
There are many cases/reports/examples.
The writer’s statement, “Science has decisively found that these foods have no negative impact on health”, is misleading.

Posted by zhyl | Report as abusive