Surprise! Your Beer And Tea Are Actually Transgenic GMOs – Forbes

Posted: January 23, 2020 at 6:43 pm


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12 September 2019, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Glzow: At the State Research Centre for ... [+] Agriculture and Fisheries, Gunnar Hirthe shows various varieties of freshly harvested sweet potatoes. Since 2018, a multi-year trial series has been running here to cultivate the sweet potato, which has so far grown mainly in Asia, America and Africa. Climate change therefore makes it possible for vegetables to grow outdoors in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern as well. However, the plants need a good water supply. (Zu dpa: "Climate change makes it possible: sweet potato cultivation is being tested") Photo: Bernd Wstneck/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Bernd Wstneck/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A new study finds that many common foods, including beer and tea, turn out to be "natural" GMOs. What's a health-food purist to do?

Even though no one has found any evidence that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are harmful, anti-GMO activists have campaigned against them for years, with considerable success. As of this writing, 19 out of 28 countries in the European Union have voted to ban or severely restrict genetically modified plants, and many other countries impose similar bans.

But all of these restrictions may be in vain, because nature got there first. It turns out that many common foods have already been genetically modified, by a bacterium called Agrobacterium. (Read on to see the list.) And, in news that should be even more frightening to the anti-GMO crowd, these foods aretransgenic: they contain genetic material from completely different species.Frankenfoods!

First, as I've argued before, genetic modification technology is just a tool, and a very precise one at that. Scientifically, claiming that GMOs are bad for you is nonsensicalit depends entirely on what the genetic modification is. Whether a food scientist modifies a tomato to taste better by traditional breeding or by using GM technology, you still end up with a tomato that has different genetic content. The only difference is that with traditional breeding, you have no idea what exactly you changed in the plant's DNA. And humans have already consumed billions of servings of GM foods with no ill effects. The GM foods we eat today areperfectly safe.

So back to my first point. What are all these natural Frankenfoods, and how did they get that way?

I'll start with the common sweet potato, or yam. Humans eat hundreds of varieties of sweet potatoes, and you can buy them in markets on every continent. Back in 2015,a group of scientists from Belgium, Peru, China, and the US (Tina Kyndt and colleagues) discoveredthateverycultivated variety of sweet potato has "foreign" DNA integrated into its genome, from a bacterium called (appropriately) Agrobacterium. They tested 291 different varieties, and found the bacterium 100% of the time. They also tested wild relatives of sweet potato, and found that the wild varieties (which humans don't eat) are missing the bacterial DNA.

Agrobacterium is a bacterium with special properties: it has evolved to be able to insert its DNA directly into the genomes of a wide variety of plants. (Don't worry, it doesn't infect humans.) In sweet potatoes, this happened naturally, centuries or millenia ago, long before humans were cultivating it. But then we came along, and (apparently) we liked the taste of these naturally transgenic sweet potatoes, so those are the ones that we chose to cultivate. As a result, all the sweet potatoes we eat are GMOs, although it happened naturally.

That was five years ago. Butin a newly published study, scientists Tatiana Matveeva from Russia andLon Otten from France discovered that Agrobacterium has made its way into dozens of other plants, including some of our favorite foods and drinks. Matveeva and Otten searched through the genomes (the DNA) of hundreds of plants, and found 39 natural GMOs, as they called them.

So without further ado, here are the natural GMO foods, all of them transgenic, with the common name followed by the formal species name in italics:

That's right, beer and tea are GMOseven if they are labelled as "organic." Keep in mind that this list is undoubtedly incomplete: the new study relied on current genome databases, which are still missing many common foods.

If you're reading this, you've probably already consumed countless servings of transgenic, GMO foods. As I wrote above, there's no reason to believe that GMO foods are harmful in any way. Plenty of plants are naturally poisonous, of course (think hemlock), but widely-consumed foods got that way for a reason: people like to eat them, and they help sustain us.

If you believe the alarmist claims of the anti-GMO movement, then you're going to have to start avoiding many more foods, including everything on the list above. And yes, that includes beer.

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Surprise! Your Beer And Tea Are Actually Transgenic GMOs - Forbes

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January 23rd, 2020 at 6:43 pm

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