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GMO-Right Genes
For about 30 years I have injected analog human insulin, produced by GMO E. coli bacteria, directly into my tissue. And I feel great, as do many other Type I diabetics who benefit from the advance this offers over earlier insulins made with pork and beef insulin crystals. Quite simply, I have the wrong genes. Those bad genes enabled my immune system to destroy the insulin-producing cells I needed to stay alive. At first, that necessitated the use of a faulty substitute, but later, an organism was created in a lab with the right gene to produce the powerful analog insulin I use now.

There are many other genetically-engineered pharmaceutical products on the market today, and more are coming. Julie Kelly discusses some of these developments in “The March of Genetic Food Progress” (if gated, Google “wsj Julie Kelly Genetic”). One in particular is an egg laid by a GM chicken that treats:

… a rare and potentially fatal disorder called lysosomal acid lipase deficiency. The chicken… produces eggs with an enzyme that replaces a faulty human enzyme, addressing the underlying cause of the disease.

She also writes of GM piglets that resist a viral respiratory disease. Her article mentions a few promising new GMOs foods in the pipeline. In a Sacred Cow Chips post in July 2015, “Nice Splice: New & Old GMO Varieties Blossom“, I quoted William Saletan on a large number of new GMOs, which I repeat here:

… drought-tolerant corn, virus-resistant plums, non-browning apples, potatoes with fewer natural toxins [and fewer carcinogens when fried], and soybeans that produce less saturated fat. … virus-resistant beans, heat-tolerant sugarcane, salt-tolerant wheat, disease-resistant cassava, high-iron rice, and cotton that requires less nitrogen fertilizer. … high-calcium carrots, antioxidant tomatoes, nonallergenic nuts, bacteria-resistant oranges, water-conserving wheat, corn and cassava loaded with extra nutrients, and a flaxlike plant that produces the healthy oil formerly available only in fish.

GMO foods enhance farm productivity, reduce waste, conserve land, improve the environment and provide better nutrition. They offer solutions to a variety of human problems that are otherwise out-of-reach.

Anti-GMO activists have smeared all of these GMO crops and even GM insulin as unsafe, but they base their claims on shoddy “research” or willful misinterpretation of research. To scare-monger people with diseases like diabetes is repugnant. Decades of experience have proven the safety of modern insulin products. Those negative claims about insulin arose from a paper reviewed here, which had a different research purpose and did not even mention GMO-produced insulin.

GMOs have been in the food supply to some extent for over 25 years. There is no shortage of high-quality, independent, peer-reviewed research proving the safety of GMOs in various contexts, including multi-generational studies for GMO animal feeds. Here is a review of GMO safety and environmental research funded by the EU. Another review of 10 years of safety research found that:

The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops.

An excellent post by Marc Brazeau on the Biology Fortified blog, “About Those Industry Funded GMO Studies“, covers a variety of research demonstrating GMO safety for humans, livestock, honey bees, and invertebrates. As the title suggests, Brazeau also probes the question of financial or professional conflict of interest, industry funding and their alleged impact on GMO research. Favorable GMO research is often condemned by activists on this basis. The “industry shill” argument is often invoked by activists to dismiss positive results regardless of the experimental rigor involved. Brazeau reviews some research on these questions, and notes the following:

… where compositional studies are concerned … the company has already performed in-house studies. They are contracting independent scientists to confirm their findings. This is going to skew the results of the sample towards industry favorable study outcomes. This doesn’t mean the studies were suspect. They were just more likely to result in a favorable outcome to begin with. If the in-house study had an unfavorable outcome in compositional assessment or other tests, then that project would be stopped and it’s back to the drawing board for a new project. There is no need for follow up testing by outside independent researchers. That’s a big reason why so many studies … will produce favorable results.

I highly recommend the GMO Skepti-Forum on Facebook as a site on which informed (and usually civil) debate takes place on GMOs. Many of the discussants are scientists actively involved in GMO research. It’s a go-to location for me when investigating on-line memes that reference GMO research.

Finally, Robert Wenzel posts some thoughts regarding “Libertarianism and GMOs“. His position on GMOs mirrors my own. He asserts that individuals have a choice about whether to consume GMOs; they are capable of finding alternatives without imposing restrictions the behavior of others who wish to avail themselves of the benefits or are unconcerned about alleged risks. In fact, the benefits often include affordability and safety. Wenzel argues that this position is consistent with the non-aggression principle, the philosophical anchor of Libertarianism.

Some libertarians object to Wenzel’s defense of biotechnology based on the crony capitalism that undoubtedly benefits the biotech industry, as well as his opposition to GMO labelling. There are certainly ties between the large biotech firms and regulators, but that is no reason to condemn the technology. Labelling proponents start from the faulty premise that there is something inherently harmful about consuming GMOs. Their solution is to impose costs on others, while they are already free to purchase their food from purveyors who offer non-GMO assurances. Hence, the argument that forced labelling represents a form of aggression.