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By Graciela Gomez
In Uruguay, the 2009/2010 harvest, approximately 85% of the corn planted was transgenic, about 90 thousand hectares. The Bt 11 and Mon 810 events are the only ones authorized for production and consumption. The European Union continues to resist the approval of new modified events for release into the environment and only authorizes them for their use in animal food, human and animal feed. With France, seven European countries have banned the cultivation of MON810 transgenic corn. Other countries are: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Luxembourg and Bulgaria. However, in South America the growth of transgenic crops released into the environment continues to rise, led by Argentina and Brazil.
Last July I had the opportunity to speak at the "2nd Seminar on the Labeling of Transgenic Products in Uruguay", whose objective is to legalize the labeling of these foods so that people choose what to eat and mobilize the Consumer Defenders, which little and they do nothing to enforce the law. Especially in our country, where the complaints are about telephony, satellite TV and everything that has to do with sumptuous services, but nothing about food and health.
The event organized by Laura Rosano, Chef representing Slow Food Canario, was attended by Dr. Claudio Martinez Debat, Molecular and Cellular Biologist, Pharmaceutical Chemist, Associate Professor of the Biochemistry Section of the Institute of Biology of the Faculty of Sciences, among others .
Today with joy we see published in the Iberoamerican Journal of Postharvest Technology (Vol 13) of the Iberoamerican Association of Postharvest Technology, Hermosillo- Mexico, the work of Dr Debat " Transgenesis analysis by PCR of 20 corn flours (polentas) that are for sale in the Uruguayan market”In co-authorship with: Martín Fernández from the Laboratory of Food Molecular Traceability, Biochemical Section, from the UR Sciences Faculty, and Adriana Da Silva, from the Bromatology Laboratory, from the Montevideo Municipal Government.
“In this work we have fine-tuned the extraction of DNA and its subsequent amplification by PCR from the" polenta "food matrix, made with corn flour widely consumed in our region. From the 20 polenta samples (sent coded by the Laboratory of Bromatology of the Municipal Administration of Montevideo), analysable DNA could be obtained from 18 of them by means of a modification of the De Dellaporta extraction protocol. These samples were analyzed by PCR ”(polymerase chain reaction to amplify a DNA fragment) in search of the 35S promoter (when scientists use transgenic technology to install a new gene in a plant, they add additional DNA fragments to direct the activity of that gene. Each gene needs a "promoter" that makes it active under specific conditions. The most widely used promoter is the 35S promoter, a virus that has been widely used as a promoter in almost all commercial transgenic crops and those that are being evaluated in the field) present in all transgenic events approved so far in Uruguay and Argentina.
“The result was positive for all of them, so it is concluded that 100% of the samples analyzed are made at least in part from genetically modified corn.
Subsequently, the presence of the events Mon810, Bt11 and Bt176 was identified for the samples. The results show that the Bt176 event is not present in any of the samples but the Mon810 and Bt11 events are, ”the scientists say. “The Mon810 event was found in 13 of the samples and the Bt11 in 14 of them (only Mon810 in 4 samples, only Bt11 in 5 and a mixture of both in 9 of them). This would indicate not only the presence of Mon810 and Bt11 in the samples, but also the possibility of several stacked events of which Mon810 and Bt11 are part ”.
“If 100% of the corn flours from which DNA could be obtained contained genetically modified corn, it is to be expected that many foods made from corn such as: cookies, bread, oils, animal rations, among many others, would also contain ”they warn.
During the fine-tuning of the methodologies, "nachos" (fried corn tortillas or small toasts with cheese) and "breakfast cereals" of well-known brands were analyzed, and both types of products also contained GMO corn. "Although the legislation of our country does not require transgenic labeling in the final product, it is foreseeable that both producers who work with non-genetically modified hybrid varieties and those who do so with native or organic corn, will begin to label their products in order to differentiate them. of transgenic products and in this way to be able to give them some added value, creating the need for laboratories that carry out the analyzes and can certify the presence or absence of genetically modified ingredients in a given product ”says the study.
“If the country approves being part of the Cartagena Protocol, at the import level, shipments must be analyzed to verify that the seeds entered, whether for release into the environment or for human, animal or feed consumption, contain the declared events and not other different ones. , something impossible to determine with the naked eye. In addition, shipments that are declared free of genetically modified material must be analyzed to rule out possible fraud or contamination. In addition to this, the cargoes to be exported must be analyzed to ensure compliance with the requirements imposed by the importer. It is well known that many countries of the European Union have strict controls on food derived from GMOs, so it is important to ensure that the products exported there comply with the established standards "something that multinationals do not want, and they spend millions to avoid all kinds of controls.
“This shows the need to fine-tune all the traceability methodologies for these events in the short term. Given that unexpected negative health effects have been found due to the consumption of foods derived from transgenic crops, the need for the detection and identification of GMOs that could be present in mass consumption foods is reinforced, "warn the scientists, calling for regular labeling.
And this coincides with other international studies that show that "The horizontal transfer of the 35S promoter also called CaMV not only contributes to the instability of transgenic lines, but also has the potential to reactivate dormant viruses or create new viruses in all species to which is transferred, particularly because of the mobility and interchangeability of the promoter elements. In this sense, the close relationship of 35S with hepadnaviruses, which produce the human hepatitis B virus, is especially relevant ”. Furthermore, because the 35S promoter is promiscuous in its functions, it has the potential to promote inappropriate overexpression of genes in all species to which it is transferred. One consequence of this can be cancer. Corn or its derivatives consumed in excess and without proper hygiene may contain pyralids whose larvae attack stored grains and forages; aflatoxins are mycotoxins produced by carcinogenic fungi derived from pyralids. Studies show that concurrent infection with Hepatitis B virus (HBV) during aflatoxin exposure increases the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma.
These considerations must be seen in light of the results of the first systematic safety tests of transgenic foods, revealed in histological studies, such as those carried out by Ewen and Puszta that are lapidary: “a significant part of the effects of potatoes transgenic was due to the "construction of genetic transformation". Biochemist Arpad Pusztai's career came to an end when he tried to report his conflicting findings on GMO potatoes. Violence, data confiscation, and permanent harassment from the British Royal Society was used to prevent their investigation (Ewen and Pusztai, 1999b and Laidlaw, 2003). Dr. Pusztai stated that “rats fed GMO potatoes damaged the animals' stomachs, immune systems and stunted growth. It can affect the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract and exert strong biological effects. It can even be applied to GMO plants that contain similar constructions. Their study aired on television, sparking a huge debate in the UK about the safety of genetically modified foods and leading to a demand for a moratorium on the development of GM crops.
The scientist recommended caution, that “all cultures containing the 35S promoter or similar, be immediately withdrawn from commercial production or open field tests. All derivatives of such crops that contain transgenic DNA must be immediately withdrawn from sale and must not be used for human consumption or for animal feed ”.
But also the media that published it came under pressure such as the leading medical journal The Lancet, which published the controversial research. An article by Jeffrey M. Smith published on Mercola.com in September 2010 describes how the biologist was made a “bad boy after being the world's leading expert in his field. "The biologist Arpad Pusztai with more than 300 articles and 12 books to his credit, when he accidentally discovered that genetically modified crops are dangerous, he became a bad boy for the biotechnology industry"
In 1990, Dr Pusztai was awarded a $ 3 million grant by the UK government to design the security system to test genetically modified organisms. His team consisted of more than 20 scientists working at three plants, including the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, the UK's top nutritional research laboratory, and his employer for the past 35 years. " But after its discovery, things changed, the biotech industry, and the UK government, jointly launched a smear campaign to destroy Pusztai's reputation.
In the Philippines, pollen from Bt corn also caused a stir. A Norwegian group, joined by all the world's anti-GMO groups, said that “inhaling pollen from Bt corn can cause disease in humans. In the Philippines in 2003, when pollen from Bt corn was dispersed through the air, approximately 100 people living next to a Bt corn field suffered from skin irritations, respiratory problems, intestinal discomfort, and other symptoms. Blood tests from 39 people showed antibodies to the Bt protein, and symptoms reappeared in 2004 in at least four other towns that grew the same variety of corn. Finally, they highlighted that the villagers had also attributed several animal deaths to Bt maize ”. Initially, the accusations were made by a Norwegian scientist, Terje Traavik. In your investigation report " An Orphan in Science: Environmental Risks of Genetically Modified Vaccines"Terje Traavik, Professor and Head of the Department of Virology at the University of Tromso and Director of the Norwegian Institute of Genetic Ecology in Norway, urges the enactment of laws and regulations that regulate the use of genetically modified vaccines.
He states: "From an ecological, environmental and living point of view, genetically engineered vaccines are unpredictable, they can be dangerous" and that "risks and dangers discussed according to the precautionary principle should be subject to preventive measures. There is a gap in the knowledge of the ecological interactions of many important pathogens. This field is to some extent subdued by reliance on vaccines, and therefore is a scientific orphan. "
As Dr Antonio E. Benjamín says, “scientific doubt is one of the most disturbing aspects of environmental law.” Another area is Consumer Law, the right to adequate and truthful information (art. 42) of the CN, the right to information, (art. 19) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (art. 13) of the American Convention on Human Rights and (art. 19) of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. To conclude, I quote from my presentation before the HCD of the National Congress, in August 2009: " The precautionary principle answers the following question: given the scientific uncertainty about the environmental danger of an activity, who has the burden of proving its offensiveness or harmlessness?? ... We all know that answer.-
Echoes of Romang