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Understanding the Food Fight Around Genetically the Food Fight Around Genetically Modified Foods Gregory Jaffe Director, Biotechnology Project Center for Science in the Public Interest

Jun 11, 2018




  • Understanding the Food Fight Around

    Genetically Modified Foods

    Gregory Jaffe

    Director, Biotechnology Project

    Center for Science in the Public Interest

    February 29, 2016

  • Summary of my presentation

    Background on CSPI and its Biotechnology Project

    Creating a Genetically Engineered Crop

    Facts about GE

    Issues Around GE in the U.S. Federal oversight

    Resistant weeds and pests



    Marketing issues


  • Center for Science in the Public

    Interest -- Background

    Food and Nutrition consumer organization

    more than 40 years old

    Advocacy and education based on the

    best available scientific evidence

    Called Food Police

  • CSPI (cont.)

    Nutrition Action Healthletter -- 800,000

    subscribers in US and Canada

    Useful health and nutrition information to


    Ranking of products


    No funding from industry or government

  • Sugar-Sweetened




    Liquid Candy 2005


  • Sodium Reduction


    Salt Assault 2013

  • CSPI Biotechnology Projects


    Current crops in the US are safe to eat

    Some benefits from some crops

    Products need to be assessed on a case

    by case basis

    Functional biosafety regulatory systems

    that ensure safety and allow safe products

    to be marketed are essential

  • Background on GE Crops

  • Creating a Genetically Engineered


    Genetic engineering allows scientists to move

    beneficial traits from one organism to another in

    a precise way. Find a gene of interest

    Insert the gene into the DNA of a plant or animal cell

    Select for cell with insertion

    Bred the plant or animal normally

    Terminology Genetically Engineered Organism =

    Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)= Living Modified

    Organism (LMO)

  • 1. Scientists find a bacterium in

    soil that naturally contains a

    protein that kills insect pests that

    feeds on corn plants. They

    extract from the bacterias DNA

    the segment, or gene, that makes

    the toxic protein.

    2. They use a gene gun to shoot

    copies of the segment into the

    nucleus of corn cells. They grow

    the cells into plants, harvest the

    seeds from the plants, and grow

    the seeds into new corn plants.

    3. Every cell in the new corn

    plantsand in their offspringis

    now programmed to make the

    toxic protein, which kills the

    insect pests when they try to eat

    the plants.

  • Shea, Kelly. The ABCs of GMOs. The Seattle Times. 10 August 2013.

  • Creating the GMO in the laboratory

    Laboratory experiments growing the

    crop in the laboratory or a greenhouse

    Confined field trials

    Unconfined field trials

    Commercial release

    GMOs the Development Process

  • Creating Varieties of Agricultural Plants

    and Animals

    Conventional breeding

    Crossing of two varieties with useful characteristics


    Tissue culture


    Chemical mutagenesis


    In vitro fertilization

    Artificial insemination

  • Has Anyone Eaten These Fruits?

    Rio Red Grapefruit


    Gold NijisseikiPear

  • Using Radiation to Create Mutant Varieties of Plants

    Gamma Rays X Rays

  • Pluots NOT genetically


    Hybrid: generally 75%

    plum, 25% apricot

    46 genetic varieties

    developed and bred by

    Zaiger Genetics,

    including Apriums,

    Nectaplums, and Pluots

  • Hybridization Example: Plum x Pluot

    Father Tree:

    PlumWhen the blossoms are

    just opening to reveal the

    pistil, they are picked,

    ground up, and dried. This

    is the pollen that will be

    used to manually pollinate

    the Mother tree.

    Mother Tree: PluotAll blossoms are emasculated: everything but the pistil is stripped from the flower by pinching the blossom at the base with tweezers.

    Manual PollinationThe pollen from the Father tree is dusted

    onto every emasculated blossom of the

    Mother tree in a greenhouse using a

    mascara brush. The resulting fruits pits have

    the hybridized genetic code. When the fruit

    matures, the pit is extracted and planted.

    After the seedlings mature, their branches are

    cut off and grafted onto full-grown disease-

    resistant rootstock.


    the FruitThe new trees are

    monitored and


    evaluated. They will

    bear fruit 57 years

    after the cross has

    been made. The fruit

    will be a new pluot


  • How your food

    would look if it

    hadnt been


    modified over




  • Foreign DNA

    inserted with


    or gene gun


    with DNA from

    the same type

    of plant

    Targeted gene

    addition of

    foreign DNA

    ZFN-1 & ZFN-2





    Chemicals, X-

    Rays, Gamma







    varieties of

    crops Breeding Method


    Level of Knowledge


  • Facts About GE Crops

  • Current Status of Genetically Engineered


    Grown in 28 countries around the world by over 18 million farmers 448 million acres in 2014

    Largest in acreage US (181 million acres)

    Largest in terms of farmers India and China 14.8 million farmers

    Types of products corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, squash, papaya, sweet pepper (China), poplar (China), tomatoes (China), eggplant (Bangladesh)

  • Primary Traits

    Built-in pesticides -- Bt genes in corn,

    cotton and eggplant (Bangladesh)

    (soybeans in the future)

    Resistance to herbicide -- glyphosate,

    glufonsinate,2,4, D (Dicamba in future)

    Resistance to virus -- papayas and


  • Current Crops in the U.S.




    Sugar Beets




    Squash (Zucchini)

    Apple (non-browning)

    Potato (non-bruising, low acrylamide)

  • Percentage of major crops that are genetically engineered in the


    *Sugarbeet data is from 2010. All other data is from 2015.

    Sources: National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. Acreage. June 2015;

    Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook, ERS July 2010

  • Benefits of Current Genetically

    Engineered Crops

    Product specific -- CASE BY CASE

    Depends on agricultural system

    Depends on receiving environment

  • Benefits of Current Genetically

    Engineered Crops Biotech companies do benefit

    Benefits to farmers; benefits to the environment

    No direct benefits to consumers

    Some of the benefits of some crops:

    Increased yields

    Reduced pesticide use

    Increased farm income


    Reduced farmer poisonings

    Benefits to non-GE farmers

  • Example of Benefits -- Bt cotton

    United States -- reduction in pesticide use

    South Africa -- increase in yields

    China -- reduction in pesticides; reduction

    in farm worker hospitalizations

  • Insecticide use in corn production, 1995-2010


  • GE Food Safety to Date

    No harms from foods made from current

    crops that are genetically engineered

    Organizations that have reached same


    Food and Drug Administration

    European Food Safety Authority

    National Academy of Sciences

    The World Health Organization

  • What are Genetically Engineered

    crops used for? Animal feed (corn and soybeans)

    Industrial uses e.g. corn for ethanol

    Processed ingredients sugar, corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, high fructose corn syrup, canola oil, soy lecithin, etc. No DNA or protein

    Issue of labeling

    Clothing cotton

    A small amount are eaten as whole foods corn, squash, papayas (potatoes and apples)

  • GE Crops and Developing


    Technology is in the seed

    Scale neutral smallholder farmers

    Can address specific agricultural problems

    Safe and beneficial

    More research in developing country crops and traits

    Nutritional impact?

    Not a panacea

  • Issues Around GE Crops in U.S.

  • U.S. Coordinated Framework