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CRISPR Could Usher In a New Era of Delicious GMO Foods

The Atlantic | Posted on September 23, 2016

A few weeks ago, Stefan Jansson, a Swedish plant biologist, sat down to a plate of pasta with cabbage harvested from his garden. This cabbage was like none any human had eaten before; its DNA had been edited via a much-hyped new gene-editing technique called CRISPR. Jansson’s meal was the first time anyone anywhere had professed to eating CRISPR-modified food—an entirely new category of GMOs.  But far from being some bizarre “frankenfood,” the cabbage looked almost exactly the same as unedited cabbage. Scientists had deleted only a single gene, which made it grow a little slower.  What might be confusing though is that Jansson’s cabbage, Brassica oleracea, did not look like or taste like cabbage—and it had not looked liked or tasted like cabbage even before scientists took CRISPR to its DNA. “It tastes like broccoli,” says Jansson, “and the leaves look like broccoli’s.”  And that’s because humans have been breeding the species B. oleracea for centuries, and this single species now comprises dozens of varieties more commonly known as kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, collard greens, savoy cabbage, etc. They all descend from wild cabbage, and they technically all belong to one species. The exact variety Jansson grew is not farmed, so he called it “cabbage” out of convenience.  Against this awesome diversity of cabbages, the deletion of one gene in Jansson’s cabbage seems almost puny in comparison. Yet CRISPR has been hyped as a world-changing innovation because it allows scientists to easily edit the genomes of nearly any species in the world: plant, animal, or even human. And CRISPR could be an opportunity to reintroduce genetic engineering to the world—to get beyond poisoned names like “GMO” and Monsanto.” To make products that exciting and novel and cooler. Way cooler than slower growing cabbage anyway.

Mycotoxins, disease reported in US corn, wheat crops

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 22, 2016

There are new reports of aflatoxin in corn and deoxynivalenol (DON) in wheat in the U.S., according toNeogen’s Mycotoxin Report on September 19. Diplodia ear rot also has been reported in corn in Michigan and Ohio.

Salmonella enteritidis risk greater in small flock eggs

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 22, 2016

Eggs from small flocks of chickens are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis than eggs sold in grocery stores, which typically come from larger flocks that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This news comes from researchers from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.  That conclusion—which flies in the face of conventional wisdom that eggs from backyard poultry and small local enterprises are safer to eat than "commercially produced" eggs—was drawn from a first-of-its kind, six-month study done last year in Pennsylvania. Researchers collected and tested more than 6,000 eggs from more than 200 selling points across the state.

Whole Foods, EPA reach deal in $3.5 million fine

Statesman Journal | Posted on September 22, 2016

Whole Foods Market says it has launched a series of new environmental efforts related to certain hazardous waste after announcing a settlement deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  The EPA said it fined the organic foods giant $3.5 million after finding about a year ago that it wasn’t properly documenting and disposing of returned items of hand sanitizer, vitamins and other products in several states, including Texas. Since that time, Whole Foods and the EPA located in Region 6 — which comprises the states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico — have drawn up new plans on how the retailer will log and dispose of such items, which also includes perfumes and nail polish.

Court to test A2 milk health claims

Weekly Times | Posted on September 22, 2016

FIGHT has erupted over the health claims behind the A2 protein in milk. The a2 Milk Company’s claim that its product is easier to digest because it contains only the A2 protein will be tested in court after it lodged a “misleading and deceptive” case against Lion Group in June for advertising on packaging that Pura and Dairy Farmers-branded milk “naturally contains A2 protein”. Lion launched a cross-claim last month alleging a2 had engaged in “misleading and deceptive conduct” and that its claims that consuming milk with only the A2 protein was beneficial “cannot be substantiated”. The case had its first day in court last week. The a2 Milk Company has managed to corner 10 per cent of the fresh milk market based on the claim the A1 protein can cause problems with digestion, eczema, allergies and even autism.

New York PTA’s proposed bans on GMOs, milk from rBST-treated cows flunk science

Genetic Literacy Project | Posted on September 22, 2016

Is it really possible that New York State will ban school kids from eating sweet corn grown almost completely without insecticides and free from brain-damaging mycotoxins?  From time to time, elected boards of education and similar organizations have proposed some science-defying stances; resolutions against teaching evolution and accepting climate change stand out historically. Now, the New York State Parent Teacher Association (NY PTA) has earned an “F” in science 101 with proposals that would ban foods made using genetically engineering or that contain GE ingredients. To make things worse, the PTA is also urging a ban on dairy products produce with recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST, also known as rBGH, or recombinant bovine growth hormone). "New York State PTA supports legislation and regulations that ban GMOs and GE foods from use in food and beverages provided by school meal programs and vending services, and be it further that until such ban is in effect, all school districts be encouraged to prohibit the use of foods and beverages that contain GMOs and GE foods provided by the school meal programs and vending services." The PTA also called for warning labels on any milk or other dairy product produced using recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBST. This hormone exists naturally in cows, and injecting the cows with rBST, which is genetically engineered to be chemically identical to “wild type” BST, significantly increases production of milk. This makes dairy farming more productive and reduces the environmental impacts of cows (fewer cows makes the same amount of milk).

FDA seeks comment on antimicrobial use in animal feed

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 20, 2016

Agency requests information on how to establish appropriate durations of use for therapeutic products The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is entering the next phase of its efforts to mitigate antimicrobial resistance by focusing for the first time on medically important antimicrobials (i.e., those important for treating human disease) used in animal feed or water that have at least one therapeutic indication without a defined duration of use. As the agency completes its work to implement changes under Guidance for Industry #213, which will, once fully implemented, limit the use of these drugs to therapeutic-only use under the oversight of a veterinarian, it is now turning its attention to ways to address those antimicrobials that may be legally used in food animals for no defined length of time.

Natural chickens, natural eggs don't exist

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 20, 2016

In reality, there is nothing “natural” as people imagine. Why do chickens and eggs have to be any different? Neither chickens, nor hens, corn, soybeans, the ground itself are as they were in the idyllic past.Groups and individuals are looking for natural foods, with no processing, no chemicals, no genetic modifications, cage-free eggs, slow growth chickens, organic chickens and a long etcetera.However, humans have always processed foods. Although made with "natural" products, jams, bread or a bowl of rice have all undergone a process. And when our ancestors were adding vinegar to preserve foods, a chemical was added: acetic acid.On the other hand, when humans stopped being nomadic and agriculture was born, the selection of plants and animals with the best features began. Therefore, genetic modification and manipulation also started. We have modified everything, as Luque said.

Responsible use in poultry rather than antibiotic-free

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 20, 2016

Dr. Peter Spring, of the Bern University of Applied Sciences, said striving for responsible antibiotic use may be a better strategy than going 100 percent antibiotic-free. With its decade-old ban on growth-promoting antibiotics, the European experience may provide some insights for American poultry producers ahead of the imposition of the United States’ own rule changes on antibiotic use.  While the continent switched its production practices, not every country established a robust program to monitor treatment of animals, use of certain medications and development of anti-microbial resistance. In 2008, two years after the EU ban on all antibiotic-growth promoters, The European Commission – the EU’s executive body -- asked for harmonization of surveillance programs for collecting data on antimicrobial sales and usage.  Spring said monitoring programs are important to understanding how well the antibiotic bans are actually effecting the level of treatment birds are receiving and help health officials and farmers know who’s using what. Additionally, the monitoring programs help determine whether antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance are linked.  Spring said producers felt like the 2006 ban meant they were safe from resistance issues, but antimicrobial resistance actually increased in the years following the ban. The development of monitoring programs throughout Europe was needed to get a better grasp on what may be contributing to the resistance problem. Not having the monitoring systems set up when the ban was enacted was a mistake, he said.  Denmark is often mentioned in studies about European antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance because the country established a monitoring program before many of its peers, he said.  Many other countries have followed the Danish example since then.

Survey shows how food standards differ by generations

Feedstuffs | Posted on September 20, 2016

It’s no secret that Millennials are changing the food and nutrition landscape, but Baby Boomers have their own set of unique ideas about what they want on their plate.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation recently dug deep into what Boomers think about food and nutrition in the “2016 Food & Health Survey” and found that perceptions of the healthfulness of certain foods vary dramatically among generations, especially between Boomers versus Millennials.  The survey revealed that Boomers look for different health benefits from their food compared to other generations, particularly Millennials, according to the survey results. They are also more likely than Millennials to be interested in health benefits associated with foods such as weight management, cardiovascular health and digestive health. Millennials, on the other hand, are more likely to be interested in benefits of mental health, muscle health and immunity associated with foods.  “IFIC’s consumer research continues to provide valuable insights into consumer perceptions on a number of issues related to food and nutrition,” said Joseph Clayton, chief executive officer of the IFIC Foundation. “These results further show how diet is not ‘one size fits all.’ This is especially apparent across the generations.”  Boomers showed a distinct definition of a healthy eating style compared to other generations. The survey found that Boomers are more likely than the general population (32% versus 22%) to define a healthy eating style by moderation/serving size and portions. Additionally, Boomers are more likely than Millennials (30% versus 17%) to define a healthy eating style as including certain foods they consider healthy.