Continue Munching On Those Marshmallow Rice Krispie Bars Without Fear

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Last summer, anti-biotech activists went into a tizzy over the "contamination" of American rice by an experimental variety. Regulators in Japan and Europe considered banning rice imports from the US and began testing all rice shipments for the errant gene. Now the US Department of Agriculture has officially given the all-clear for the variety. According to the Washington Post:

The USDA said Friday that its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service decided to deregulate the experimental long-grain rice after a review of scientific evidence indicated it was as safe as its traditionally bred counterparts.

After all, why not? It's not as though the gene codes for snake venom or cyanide. Again according to the Post:

The company said regulators have found that the protein in its herbicide-tolerant rice varieties, including LLRICE601, poses no human health or environmental concern. The protein has been approved for food use in a number of crops by regulators in Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, the United States and other countries, the company said.

Earlier in this fake "crisis" I explained how some experts believe genetically modified crop traits should properly be regulated.

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  1. The best comment I ever heard on “organic foods” came from a veterinarian:

    “What’s the other kind? Silicon based?”

  2. You may find this article on GM cotton interesting, Ron:

    http://www.nature.com/news/2006/061120/full/061120-2.html

    They’ve engineered the seeds to not contain a toxin found in the naturally occuring variety. The toxin is still present in the rest of the plant, so the plant is protected from animals, but the seeds, which are very high in protein, are now edible. Since cotton plants produce as much seed (by weight) as fiber, this could provide a very profitable second revenue stream for cotton farmers in developing countries.

  3. I don’t care if they genetically modify rice. Just keep the brown rice separate from the White rice and I’ll be happy.

  4. Was reading with interest Mr. Bailey’s guidance on how safety testing of food should be done at the linked article:

    First, GM crops and non-GM crops should be regulated in the same manner for similar or identical risks. If a regulatory system would cover a specific trait were it in a conventionally bred crop, then it should also regulate that same trait in a GM crop. If not, then it should not be regulated in a GM crop either.

    This thing about regulating against “traits” sounds wrong to me. Any regulation and safety-testing should be based on the risks of disease ftrom eating the food, rather than the “traits” of the food (whatever those are). “Traits” seems like an odd word to use because it brings to mind Gregor Mendel’s flowers and their lovely colors, rather than latent diseases that may (or may not) be caused by the food. For example, despite the connection between tobacco and cancer, I would not call mouth cancer a “trait” of the tobacco plant. But that seems to be the way Mr. Bailey is using the word here when it comes to GM foods.

  5. I’ve often wondered if the rise in children’s allergies in the last decade has anything to do with the altering of proteins in certain crops. After all, it is the proteins that people are allergic to in foods. New proteins, new allergies to proteins. It would be a more plausible explanation than the “hygiene theory” that people are pushing now.

  6. Children’s allegies have indeed increased recently. Most clinicians will denied the “Hygine theory.” What is amazing is that those same clinicians are pushing for more childhood vacinations but remain ignorant of the hygiene theory.
    An increasing antiseptic world, whether from germs, plastics or genetically modified crops seems to be a goal that puts up back in time. We live in a world were we solve a “problem” and move on while never looking back to see if it really worked. Massive amounts of vacinations, limiting our children’s exposure to risk to zero, not using GM crops when we had the opportunity are all indications of that belief system.

  7. I find the hygiene theory (sic, probably should be “hypothesis”) plausible. equally plausible is the idea that since vaccinations and antibiotics became commonplace, children who might otherwise have died young live long enough to experience allergies, and pass the genetic tendencies for allergies on to their children.

  8. biologist:
    I don’t know if the numbers in your theory would balance out. Childhood deaths had already declined dramatically before allergies began to increase. But it would be worth looking at those numbers to see if there is a correlation.
    And certainly the “hygiene theory” will remain a hypothosis as long as it is a politically incorrect theory. But it does seem strange that as smoking rates have decreased by half and air pollution by an even greater percentage here in NYC that asthma and allergy rates have increased as much as they have.

  9. a variety of sources of childhood mortality with genetic components (cancer, for example) could have been masked by the high incidence of childhood mortality from disease (measles, flu, mumps, rubella)

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