Saturday, May 30, 2015

U.S. Approves SunOpta System for Detecting Genetically Modified Crops

Lets hope this is better self-policing than the banks do... I am quite familiar with the logistic supply chain thoroughness of companies like Cargill, Pillsbury and other agriculture commodity companies in Minnesota, yet the supply chain is only as good as its weakest link.  I worked for 3 years in supply chain software systems and have many friends in these companies.  -AK
U.S. Approves SunOpta System for Detecting Genetically Modified Crops


A little-known but publicly traded organic food processing company, SunOpta, has persuaded the federal government that its system for detecting genetically modified crops is so effective that the company should be permitted to label ingredients from one of its plants in Minnesota as free of such alterations.

“Consumers are looking for transparency, and we have a process in place that we’ve used for years,” Steven R. Bromley, chief executive of SunOpta, said in an interview on Friday. The company, which is based in Toronto but has most of its facilities in the United States, specializes in sourcing, processing and packaging of natural and certified organic food products that are sold in stores like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s.

The labeling of foods to indicate the presence or absence of ingredients from genetically modified crops like corn, soy and sugar beets is one of the most contentious issues in the food business. Over the last few years, consumers, fearing that the manipulation of genes in the crops they eat could be harmful, have been putting increasing pressure on food producers to label products containing ingredients from so-called G.M.O.s (genetically modified organisms). Studies have not found any harmful effects from eating G.M.O.s.

The United States Department of Agriculture is not certifying that SunOpta’s ingredients are G.M.O.-free. Rather, it is certifying that the SunOpta process does ensure that the corn and soy it plans to process in its plant in Hope, Minn., are not genetically altered varieties.

That longstanding U.S.D.A. program, called “process verification,” typically allows companies that have passed the agency’s muster to use a red, white and blue shield on packaging. Some meat products from animals raised humanely, for example, sport the shield on their wrappers.

But the U.S.D.A. has given SunOpta permission to use a new navy-and-green label that reads “Non-G.M.O./G.E. process verified.”

The decision was noted in a monthly email that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack sends to employees. That email was obtained by The Associated Press, which reported on Thursday that the U.S.D.A. would soon disclose a new labeling program.

A Proposal to Modify Plants Gives G.M.O. Debate New Life

A rice farmer in Indonesia. In Southeast Asia, millions of farmers use flood-resistant rice produced through crossbreeding, a process researchers seek to speed up with a technique they call "rewilding." Credit John Seaton Callahan/Getty Images 

A Proposal to Modify Plants Gives G.M.O. Debate New Life


What’s in a name?

A lot, if the name is genetically modified organism, or G.M.O., which many people are dead set against. But what if scientists used the precise techniques of today’s molecular biology to give back to plants genes that had long ago been bred out of them? And what if that process were called “rewilding?”

That is the idea being floated by a group at the University of Copenhagen, which is proposing the name for the process that would result if scientists took a gene or two from an ancient plant variety and melded it with more modern species to promote greater resistant to drought, for example.

“I consider this something worth discussing,” said Michael B. Palmgren, a plant biologist at the Danish university who headed a group, including scientists, ethicists and lawyers, that is funded by the university and the Danish National Research Foundation.
RELATED: U.S. Approves SunOpta System for Detecting Genetically Modified Crops MAY 15, 2015

They pondered the problem of fragile plants in organic farming, came up with the rewilding idea, and published their proposal Thursday in the journal Trends in Plant Science.

"Rewilded" bread wheat plants that scientists designed to be rust resistant, left, next to common bread wheat plants. Credit International Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat 
The best way to improve plants, they say, is with “precision breeding,” using well-known modern methods for inserting and deleting genes in cells.

The researchers wrote that in the United States and Canada, non-G.M.O. foods are prohibited from having genes that could not have occurred in nature in that plant. So adding a fish gene to a plant, for example, is forbidden if the food is to be labeled non-G.M.O. But adding a gene from an ancient variety of the same plant using precision breeding would be allowed, Dr. Palmgren said.

In Europe, the rules are different, they report. There, G.M.O. is defined by the process, not the product. The methods of genetic engineering are forbidden, even if the gene that is added is from the same plant. That means “rewilded” foods created with precision breeding could be labeled non-G.M.O. in the United States, but not in Europe, they conclude.

Rebecca M. Bratspies, a law professor at the City University of New York who has no public position on the G.M.O. or organics debate, said the issue is not the definition of G.M.O. in the United States — there is no legal definition of G.M.O., she noted. Instead, it is the definition of “organic” that matters.
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