Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in Commercial GMO Crops
Synopsis: A scientific paper published in late 2012 shows that US and EU GMO regulators have for many years been inadvertently approving transgenic events containing an unsuspected viral gene. As a result, 54 different transgenic events commercialized internationally contain a substantial segment of the multifunctional Gene VI from Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV) within them. Among these are some of the most widely grown GMOs, including Roundup Ready Soybean (40-3-2) and MON810 Maize. The oversight occurred because regulators failed to appreciate that Gene VI overlaps the commonly used CaMV 35S gene regulatory sequence. The authors of the paper, working for the European Food Safety Authority, concluded that functions of Gene VI were potential sources of harmful consequences. They further concluded that, if expressed, the fragments of Gene VI are substantial enough for them to be functional (Podevin and du Jardin (2012) GM Crops and Food 3: 1-5). This discovery has multiple ramifications for biotechnology. Foremost, there is the immediate question of GMO safety and whether the 54 events should be recalled, but secondly, the failure implicates regulators and the industry in a circle of mutual incompetence and complacency. The discovery will also strengthen the argument for GMO labeling: if regulators and industry cannnot protect the public then why should they not be allowed to protect themselves?
Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson
Independent Science News, January 21 2013
How should a regulatory agency announce they have discovered something potentially very important about the safety of products they have been approving for over twenty years?In the course of analysis to identify potential allergens in GMO crops, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has belatedly discovered that the most common genetic regulatory sequence in commercial GMOs also encodes a significant fragment of a viral gene (Podevin and du Jardin 2012). This finding has serious ramifications for crop biotechnology and its regulation, but possibly even greater ones for consumers and farmers. This is because there are clear indications that this viral gene (called Gene VI) might not be safe for human consumption. It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance.
What Podevin and du Jardin discovered is that