There isn’t much local Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino won’t eat. His highly accliamed Amaz restaurant is devoted to finding and using Amazonian food native to the country, like a 600-pound freshwater fish or a little-known fruit nicknamed “cannonball” that tastes like a cross between a guava, coconut, and melon.
But a year ago Mr. Schiaffino stopped eating supermarket tomatoes.
Even though Peru is the birthplace of the crop, it’s difficult to find anything other than hard, pale Roma tomatoes in supermarkets, and Schiaffino says that worried him.
“They’re a big monoculture, which is why people usually end up using [genetically modified organisms] GMOs. Because when you have monocultures, the crops end up getting diseases, and you have to look for these extreme ways to fix them,” he says.
Peru was the cradle of the Inca Empire, and today it’s home to many crops indigenous to the Americas. It has 400 varieties of potato alone, and a geography that allows farmers to grow almost anything.
It’s also the only country in the Americas to put a 10-year ban on genetically modified food, with a law that was first introduced in 2011, and went into effect at the end of last year. Its basic intention, say Schiaffino and others, is to protect Peru’s biodiversity, as well as the practices that have kept it intact for so long.
In this article from Activist Post, Anthony Gucciardi informs us of some great successes in the GMO battle, with countries and counties standing up against the GMO juggernaut. A case in point here in the USA, Colorado’s Boulder County was the latest health freedom hotspot to stand up against Monsanto and genetically modified produce, with Boulder County advisory committees announcing plans to phase out GMO crops on open space in pursuit of sustainable and ethical farming practices.
The county joins a long list of other political bodies that have banned, condemned, and even uprooted GMO crops across the globe.
Both the Food and Agriculture Policy Council and the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee of Boulder Country voted 5-4 to phase out GMOs in an economically viable way. The transition proves that it is possible to be environmentally conscious, preserve the health of citizens, and still maintain economic stability.
Genetically modified corn has been growing on around 16,000 acres of cropland owned by the county for around a decade. In 2009, public concern over the consequences of GMO crops sparked public debate within the county. Citizens demanded that GMO crops be banned after 6 local farmers asked permission to plant sugar beets that were engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup.
Nations Starting to Ban and Uproot GMO Crops
Hungary has gained international recognition for their bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto,destroying all Monsanto corn fields littered with GMO crops. The nation destroyed 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, which are banned in the country. Many of the farmers were actually shocked to find they were using GMO seeds, which are resulting in extreme environmental consequence.
This is the ultimate in arrogance. Much like Genetically Modified Organisms that have infected our food supply and have been shown, scientifically, to be harmful to both humans and animals, now we have life being generated using synthetic ‘living’ cells. I mean can this really be classified as living? I have serious questions about this piece of work!
One of the touted uses is the creation of new vaccines. I wonder if these will be as ‘effective’ as the old ones. I mean really folks this has gone beyond anything I could have imagined…well almost. Synthetic ‘living’ cells…I just wonder how the Universe will perceive this one!
Artificial life’ breakthrough announced by scientists
By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC News
Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first synthetic living cell.
The researchers constructed a bacterium’s “genetic software” and transplanted it into a host cell.
The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species “dictated” by the synthetic DNA.
The advance, published in Science, has been hailed as a scientific landmark, but critics say there are dangers posed by synthetic organisms.
The researchers hope eventually to design bacterial cells that will produce medicines and fuels and even absorb greenhouse gases.
Craig Venter defends the synthetic living cell
The team was led by Dr Craig Venter of the J Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Maryland and California.
He and his colleagues had previously made a synthetic bacterial genome, and transplanted the genome of one bacterium into another.
Now, the scientists have put both methods together, to create what they call a “synthetic cell”, although only its genome is truly synthetic.
Dr Venter likened the advance to making new software for the cell.
The researchers copied an existing bacterial genome. They sequenced its genetic code and then used “synthesis machines” to chemically construct a copy.
Dr Venter told BBC News: “We’ve now been able to take our synthetic chromosome and transplant it into a recipient cell – a different organism.
“As soon as this new software goes into the cell, the cell reads [it] and converts into the species specified in that genetic code.”
The new bacteria replicated over a billion times, producing copies that contained and were controlled by the constructed, synthetic DNA.
“This is the first time any synthetic DNA has been in complete control of a cell,” said Dr Venter.
‘New industrial revolution’
Dr Venter and his colleagues hope eventually to design and build new bacteria that will perform useful functions.
Continue reading the main story Susan Watts
Even some scientists worry we lack the means to weigh up the risks such novel organisms might represent, once set loose
Susan Watts BBC Newsnight science editor Read Susan Watts’s thoughts Send us your comments
“I think they’re going to potentially create a new industrial revolution,” he said.
“If we can really get cells to do the production that we want, they could help wean us off oil and reverse some of the damage to the environment by capturing carbon dioxide.”
Dr Venter and his colleagues are already collaborating with pharmaceutical and fuel companies to design and develop chromosomes for bacteria that would produce useful fuels and new vaccines.
But critics say that the potential benefits of synthetic organisms have been overstated.
Dr Helen Wallace from Genewatch UK, an organisation that monitors developments in genetic technologies, told BBC News that synthetic bacteria could be dangerous.
“If you release new organisms into the environment, you can do more harm than good,” she said.
“By releasing them into areas of pollution, [with the aim of cleaning it up], you’re actually releasing a new kind of pollution.
“We don’t know how these organisms will behave in the environment.”
Continue reading the main story
The risks are unparalleled, we need safety evaluation for this kind of radical research and protections from military or terrorist misuse
Julian Savulescu Oxford University ethics professor Profile: Craig Venter Ethics concern over synthetic cell
Dr Wallace accused Dr Venter of playing down the potential drawbacks.
“He isn’t God,” she said, “he’s actually being very human; trying to get money invested in his technology and avoid regulation that would restrict its use.”
But Dr Venter said that he was “driving the discussions” about the regulations governing this relatively new scientific field and about the ethical implications of the work.
He said: “In 2003, when we made the first synthetic virus, it underwent an extensive ethical review that went all the way up to the level of the White House.
“And there have been extensive reviews including from the National Academy of Sciences, which has done a comprehensive report on this new field.
“We think these are important issues and we urge continued discussion that we want to take part in.”
Dr Gos Micklem, a geneticist from the University of Cambridge, said that the advance was “undoubtedly a landmark” study.
But, he said, “there is already a wealth of simple, cheap, powerful and mature techniques for genetically engineering a range of organisms. Therefore, for the time being, this approach is unlikely to supplant existing methods for genetic engineering”.
The ethical discussions surrounding the creation of synthetic or artificial life are set to continue.
Professor Julian Savulescu, from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, said the potential of this science was “in the far future, but real and significant”.
“But the risks are also unparalleled,” he continued. “We need new standards of safety evaluation for this kind of radical research and protections from military or terrorist misuse and abuse.
“These could be used in the future to make the most powerful bioweapons imaginable. The challenge is to eat the fruit without the worm.”
The advance did not pose a danger in the form of bio-terrorism, Dr Venter said.
“That was reviewed extensively in the US in a report from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Washington defence think tank, indicating that there were very small new dangers from this.
“Most people are in agreement that there is a slight increase in the potential for harm. But there’s an exponential increase in the potential benefit to society,” he told BBC’s Newsnight.
“The flu vaccine you’ll get next year could be developed by these processes,” he added.
For once I am a bit speechless. Scientists have gone overboard here. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!