Sunday, April 27, 2008

"In Lean Times, Biotech Grains Are Less Taboo"

"With food riots in some countries focusing attention on how the world will feed itself, biotech proponents see their chance. They argue that while genetic engineering might have been deemed unnecessary when food was abundant, it will be essential for helping the world cope with the demand for food and biofuels in the decades ahead.

In Japan and South Korea, some manufacturers for the first time have begun buying genetically engineered corn for use in soft drinks, snacks and other foods. Until now, to avoid consumer backlash, the companies have paid extra to buy conventionally grown corn. But with prices having tripled in two years, it has become too expensive to be so finicky.

'We cannot afford it,' said a corn buyer at Kato Kagaku, a Japanese maker of corn starch and corn syrup.

The main reason some Japanese and South Korean makers of corn starch and corn sweeteners are buying biotech corn is that they have dwindling alternatives. Their main supplier is the United States, where 75 percent of corn grown last year was genetically modified, up from 40 percent in 2003.

In the United States, wheat growers and marketers, once hesitant about adopting biotechnology because they feared losing export sales, are now warming to it as a way to bolster supplies. Genetically modified crops contain genes from other organisms to make the plants resistance to insects, herbicides or disease. Opponents continue to worry that such crops have not been studied enough and that they might pose risks to health and the environment.

'I think it’s pretty clear that price and supply concerns have people thinking a little bit differently today,' said Steve Mercer, a spokesman for U.S. Wheat

The group, which once cautioned farmers about growing biotech wheat, is working to get seed companies to restart development of genetically modified wheat and to get foreign buyers to accept it.

Even in Europe, where opposition to what the Europeans call Frankenfoods has been fiercest, some prominent government officials and business executives are calling for faster approvals of imports of genetically modified crops. They are responding in part to complaints from livestock producers, who say they might suffer a critical shortage of feed if imports are not accelerated.

Whatever importance biotechnology can play in the long run, food shortages are making it harder for some buyers to avoid engineered crops."


The tone of the original NY Times article does not read as this post does, I simply rearranged the order of paragraphs and cut a few others out because I felt the original merely brushed by what is critical in this discussion.

For the question is not if genetic food will broach feedstock barrels, grocers, and restaurants, or when, because this has been happening for years already (remember: 75% of US corn is GM) - it is what - what are the consequences to food markets, the hungry, our environment, and our bodies, when someday soon 75% or more of what we consume is made of "DNA from one organism, modified in a laboratory, and then inserted it into the target organism's genome to produce new genotypes or phenotypes."

Furthermore, as long as men, women, and children are allowed to die of starvation when there is extraordinarily more than enough food to feed every human on Earth - the primary agricultural issue should be radically rearranging our heinous world food system to stop this from happening, 'less we chalk up human society as a failure.

Alive...after 250 million years

"Ancient bacteria trapped in a state of suspended animation for 250 million years are the world's oldest living things, claim US scientists.

The microbes are ten times older than any previously discovered living organism and may reopen the debate about the origins of life on Earth.

The bacteria were found in salt crystals buried almost 609 metres (2,000 feet) below ground at a cavern in south-east New Mexico, US.

The bacterium lived millions of years before the dinosaurs

Until now, the world's oldest living survivors were thought to be 25-40-million-year-old bacterial spores discovered in a bee preserved in amber.

Bacteria are known to adapt to harsh conditions by forming resistant structures called spores.

They can exist in a state of suspended animation for long periods.

Dr Russell Vreeland, from West Chester University, Pennsylvania, and colleagues, made the latest discovery.

'There are a lot of people who believe that organisms can survive long-term, particularly the spores themselves,' Dr Vreeland told BBC News Online. 'We have provided the strongest evidence that in fact these things could survive for extremely long periods of time.'

'We're 250 million years and counting as far as the survival of an organism goes in a crystal.'

Origins of Life

The crystals were in a drill sample taken from an air intake shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the world's first underground dump for radioactive waste left over from making nuclear weapons.

When they were extracted from the crystals in a laboratory and placed in a nutrient solution, the micro-organisms revived and began to grow.

The bacterium, known as Bacillus strain 2-9-3, resembles modern-day Bacillus organisms found in the Dead Sea.

The bacterium also raises questions about how life began on Earth.

It has re-opened an old debate: whether it is possible for life in the form of DNA or dormant microbes can be carried by asteroids or comets, or drift in interstellar clouds, to fall and colonise suitable planets such as the Earth.

Travelling at the speed of light, the nearest star to the Earth would take 4.2 years to reach and the nearest galaxy 2.2 million years.

But even huge distances like these might be within reach for bacteria that live for 250 million years.

'Once you're out to that distance then you are easily within the time period necessary for a rock to be blown off Mars, for instance, or even from a planet on a nearby star, and for that rock to travel to the Earth,' said Dr Vreeland.

He said his personal belief was that life did start on Earth, but the discovery meant it was theoretically possible for life to travel between planets."

Read the full article: Alive...after 250 million years