genetically modified corn

While You Were at the Bench: Week 48

Scientists at Wake Forest University have combined an ink jet printer and an electrospinning machine to fabricate cartlidge using viable tissue.  This printer hybrid is a big step forward in designing three dimensional tissue for implantation in humans.

At a separate Skynet facility….errr…I mean University of Waterloo, computational neurobiologists have developed a 2.5 million neuronal model that is capable of counting, recollection, and gambling.  I’m thinking, Vegas baby!

Swedish engineers have developed an aerosol based growth method for mass fabricating highly reproducible semiconductors using gold rather than a silicon substrate.  This method is potentially a cheaper alternative to constructing batteries, LED’s, and solar cells.

Sea snails obtained near Antartica are showing severe signs of shell dissolution due to increased ocean acidification (uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide), which has been previously demonstrated in a controlled laboratory environment.  These snails are a vital source of food and important for the carbon cycle in the waters around Antartica.

The bread wheat genome has been deciphered in the hopes of improving wheat production world wide.  If only this study had come out sooner, maybe Hostess brands would have been saved…..nah.

SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk, has proposed creating a self-sustaining Martian colony by utilizing a new type of spacecraft called cyclers that the company is building.

In an update to a former blog post regarding a French study on toxicity of genetically modified corn, the European Food Safety Authority has concluded that the study “does not meet acceptable scientific standards” due to “inadequencies in the design.”  You can read the full report here.

Apparently Movember is also Bigfoot month.  Veternarian Melba S. Ketchum claims to have sequenced 100 DNA samples from the elusive hairy beast.   According to Dr. Ketchum, the DNA results indicate Sasquatch is a result of mating between homo sapien and an unknown primate 15,000 years ago.  Until I read the peer reviewed journal article on this one, I think it might just be this guy “it is“.

Have a Great Weekend!

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How Safe is GM Food?

What are the health effects of eating genetically modified food? 

That’s the question Séralini and colleagues sought to answer by studying rats fed Round-up tolerant genetically modified (GM) corn (with and without 0.1 ppb Roundup in water) for a period of two years.

Publishing their findings on September 19, 2012 in Food and Chemical Toxicology, rats fed GM corn had shorter life spans, severe liver and kidney damage, and developed large mammary tumors compared with control rats. 

This study has become a media firestorm both in the European Union and the United States.  The French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has requested that the National Agency for Health Safety review the study.  Austria has asked the EU to reconsider their approval process for safety of genetically modified food.  And, in the US, this research has provided strong support for California’s Proposition 37, an initiative to place labels on genetically modified food, something that is already required in at least 50 countries. 

But all might not be as it seems.   This study has come under criticism for several reasons.  First, the type of rat used, Sprague Dawley, is susceptible to developing mammary tumors when their diet is not properly controlled.  Second, the number of control rats used was low (n=20 males and females; 10 per sex) to draw definitive conclusions.  Third, rats fed the largest percentage of GM corn, had less severe symptoms compared with the lowest percentage group. 

Despite hundreds of peer-reviewed feeding studies supporting the safety of GM food, Séralini and colleagues have lumped GM food into cigarette smoking or bisphenol A consumption. 

Now, the question becomes not is GM food safe to eat, but rather how valid is this study?

Tim Worstall has provided an interesting argument to the topic.  Harlan, the provider of rats used in this study, has used genetically modified corn in their rat chow for the last ten years.  If GM corn was increasing the formation of tumors and causing liver and kidney necrosis in laboratory animals, scientists and veterinarians would have noticed these health concerns years ago.  Tim suggests we use common sense when examining the conclusions drawn from this study. 

Regardless, the media coverage following this study will help sway the court of public opinion against GM food.  As for myself, I agree with Tim.

Update: October 4, 2012
The European Food Safety Authority has determined that a French study supporting the toxic effects of genetically modified corn was poorly designed and therefore does not support the conclusions made in the paper. The authors have until October 12th to address concerns raised by the agency.

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