What's For Dinner? Mutant Rice

The FDA retroactively approved a strain of genetically modified rice that infiltrated our supermarkets after escaping from a 2001 experiment. Six years ago, Avenits Crop Science introduced Liberty Link, a transgenic rice strain resistant to Liberty, an Aventis weed killer. The Liberty Link experiment ended abruptly when StarLink – a transgenic corn strain made by Aventis that was approved only for use in animal feed, not for human consumption – was found in Kraft taco shells. The ensuing public relations disaster led to Aventis’ sale to the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which immediately discontinued Liberty Link’s production. Yet somehow, the transgenic rice survived…

In 2006, Liberty Link inexplicably appeared in the five rice-grown southern states: Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana, affecting little-known, but widely used rice strains like Chenier and Clearfield. The mutant rice quickly infiltrated our supermarkets appearing in products like Uncle Ben’s, Rice Krispies, Gerber, and Budweiser.

Rather than issue a monumental recall, last November the FDA retroactively approved Liberty Link for human consumption. Their reasoning? The mutant rice was similar to mutant corn and canola that hadn’t yet harmed American consumers.

Then again, the experts also have dismissed repeated warnings that genetically modified crops can’t be managed or controlled. When organic farmers worried that their fields could be invaded by genetically modified plants grown nearby, regulators told them there was nothing to fear. The biotech industry promised that experimental, gene-altered plants could be grown in open fields and never, ever end up in the neighborhood Safeway.

There is no law requiring producers to disclose the use genetically modified ingredients. For anyone wondering what the future of American food recalls might look like, this is your glimpse. Bon appetite.

Attack of the mutant rice [Fortune]
(Photo: IRRI Images)

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  1. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    This is only going to get worse. What happens when GM crops insiniuate themsleves into everything & you can’t grow any crop with out being beholden to companies like Monsanto?

    Europe has the right idea this time & we should be following their lead.

  2. sonichghog says:

    I like the idea of gen-mods in food. You just have to be careful of what is used to modify the food. You do not want to worry about a peanut alergy when eating rice.

    But Having food modified to be insect resistant, seems better to me than having the food blasted with pestisides.

  3. “Yet somehow, the transgenic rice survived…”

    Somehow? Somehow? Plants have sex, people. It’s like when they made only girl dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and the girls parthenogenesized. “Nature finds a way.” (Cue dramatic music.) You can engineer a plant to be infertile or fertile only to your patented pollen, but whether or not the plant gets the memo is an entirely different issue. Allegedly non-reproducing GM crops have been “escaping” since they’ve been available. IT’S NOT A PROBLEM THAT’S GOING AWAY!

    Continuing to approve the same types of GM crops with the same mechanisms of reproduction containment is going to result, surprise surprise, in the same genetic escapage. What’s that line about insanity is the doing the same thing and expecting a different result?

  4. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @sonichghog:

    Insect-resistant crops usually produce a posion in them that is supposed to *only* effect the insects that eat them. In reality it never, ever works out that way. Anything you modify in a food chain will eventually effect something else. I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. What happens when GM’d poison produces sterility in humans in the 10th generation or so?

  5. B says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Plants, too? I thought it was just birds and bees.

  6. bohemian says:

    They have had problems with this for years. Monsanto’s roundup ready corn breeds have been taking over other farmers fields. Not only polluting their corn crop but then if Monsanto gets wind that the farmer is “illegally” using their seed they sue them. Yep, migrating seed or field infiltration equals the farmer stealing from Monsanto.

  7. Sherryness says:

    Most of what we eat contains a genetically modified component called high-fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup is turned into high-fructose corn syrup with a synthetic process that utilized a genetically modified enzyme. And high-fructose corn syrup can be found in virtually EVERYTHING – not just sweet things. It’s found in bread, sour cream, worcestershire sauce, yogurt – we’re *alreaydy* subsisting on a genetically modified diet.

  8. @Eyebrows McGee: It’s like when they made only girl dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and the girls parthenogenesized.

    While I agree that we should not turn a blind idea to the Pandora’s box of GM crops, I feel the need to remind you and subsequent commenters that Jurassic Park was a work of complete and utter fiction.

    Arguing against GM foods by using the imagination of an ill-informed science fiction writer is not going to help the case against GM foods. There are plenty of more compelling reasons to resist the march against non-GM foods.

  9. Chaosium says:

    Containment is a concern, and I do believe safety is of a huge concern with the food supply, but GM “frankenfood” is not something that should instantly taint a food as dangerous. There’s a difference between a legitimate concern and kneejerk scaremongering.

  10. At least there aren’t any greasels in my neighborhood animal shelter.


    Yet.

  11. Dervish says:

    @Jaysyn: I wouldn’t be worried about poisoning humans. Take BT for example, a pesticide in GM corn (among other crops) that kills the caterpillars of some pests – the BT protein is harmlessly denatured and cut apart in the human stomach. And I know, it’s difficult to declare something completely harmless, but studies have never shown any ill effects from ingesting BT protein since it was first incorporated into crops.

    You’re right on the money, however, when you say “anything you modify in the food chain will affect something else.” Not only do you have to worry about BT-susceptible insects (which are food for something else) being killed off, but what happens when the insects evolve to become resistant to BT, one of the world’s great natural pesticides?

    I’m not against GM foods from a food safety standpoint, per se, but I am from a biodiversity point of view. That, and I don’t trust Monsanto and the like to do anything they promise.

  12. sonichghog says:

    @Jaysyn: You are right. But you have to wonder about the pestisides that are only supposed to kill bugs as well. In 10 Generations, who knows, right?

  13. @CaliforniaCajun: Except I wasn’t using his SCIENCE, I was using an example from popular culture that many people are familiar with to illustrate the point about infertile plants “escaping” their infertility.

    I’m not actually aware of a case where a GM crop “escaped” via apomixis, which would present the true parallel to animal parthenogenesis. It was clearly not meant as a scientific explanation.

  14. @Dervish: “what happens when the insects evolve to become resistant to BT, one of the world’s great natural pesticides?”

    This honestly keeps me awake at night worrying. And cursing Monsanto.

  15. It’s not resistant to bugs, it’s resistant to herbicide. The idea being you grow the herbicide resistant crop, douse it in herbicide, and only the weeds die.

    I’m not worried about the health risks of trangenic plants, but the spread of genes from crop to non-crop species (including weed/nuisance species) is a real risk.

  16. ancientsociety says:

    Wonderful. This is part of the reason I’m a huge proponent of organic farming and local food. You just don’t know what you’re truly ingesting if you buy food from the multinationals.

  17. Thrust says:

    Can I get some genetically modified potatoes? I want french fries that burn fat instead of add it.

  18. allstarecho says:

    Yes yes, buy organic only and avoid the nuclear foods being put out by Monsanto and ConAgra.

  19. Amelie says:

    Sherryness said, “And high-fructose corn syrup can be found in virtually EVERYTHING……we’re *alreaydy* subsisting on a genetically modified diet.”

    Please speak for yourself, as I don’t purchase products containing HFC.

  20. Sherryness says:

    @zouxou: Ok, I should have said, 98% of “us.” As I don’t either, when I can help it. Interestingly, you can’t always tell. I bought barbecue sauce that listed no high-fructose corn syrup. But it listed worcestershire sauce. Later that week I looked at the ingredients of my worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins) and guess what was listed? HFCS – it’s insidious. It’s in sour cream a lot, too, if you can imagine.

  21. leftistcoast says:

    @zouxou: If you think you’re avoiding GMO corn products by simply avoiding HFCS, you’ve got another thing coming. Mono-, di- and tri-glycerides, along with crystaline fructose, MSG and a whole host of common food additives are derived from corn. Oh, and if you drink standard American lagers, most of the grain used to brew them is corn…

  22. anatak says:

    @sonichghog:
    “I like the idea of gen-mods in food. You just have to be careful of what is used to modify the food. You do not want to worry about a peanut alergy when eating rice.

    But Having food modified to be insect resistant, seems better to me than having the food blasted with pestisides.”

    Would be interesting if they actually did that. But then they can’t sell their pesticides. Rather, they make the GM crops to be pesticide resistant, so that more farmers are blasting more crops with pesticide. Nice, huh?

    Organic all the way.

  23. DJFelix says:

    I love GM foods, and I really don’t understand what the fuss is all about. If we could solve world hunger in less than two decades growing GM crops in countries where standard crops either can’t grow, or are too expensive to grow, why wouldn’t we? Why are so many smug American hippies happy to prance around through Whole Foods paying $10 a pound for apples, and telling the poor countries they can’t have any GM food because “it’s eeevil … it was created in a lab … it might do something to you, someday, maybe, we don’t know … you’re better off starving to death.” It makes me sick.

  24. Dervish says:

    @anatak: Actually, as stated above, many crops are modified to produce BT, a natural pesticide that kills the pests that eat the crop.

    But yes, you also have many roundup-ready/liberty-link crops that are specifically engineered to work with the company’s herbicides.

  25. Joewithay says:

    Well last time I check we humans have been genetically engineering food since we learn how to farm by use of selective breeding. Nothing bad has happen to us from eating selectively breed food…well except getting fat from eating too much :P

  26. snwbrder0721 says:

    @jaysyn @sonichghog
    “What happens when GM’d poison produces sterility in humans in the 10th generation or so?”

    See the movie “Children of Men”
    (Hopefully Clive Owen will still be around to save us)

  27. Thrust says:

    On the “Holy Fuck, this shit will KILL you” list, food isn’t a concern to me.

    The odds of me getting anything fatal or debilitating (more debilitating than the screamin shits at least) from food is much MUCH lower than dying on my commute to work. If it’s not driving that will kill me, it’s the sun, my allergies/athsma, some random shooting, gang violence, a sawblade from the factory below me could come loose – shoot up through the floor – and split me in two, or there’s airplane accidents… Not so much being IN one, but a jet engine from an unknown passenger liner could strike my house and crush me and my bedroom in the middle of the night, then I would hallucinate about creepy evil rabbits named Jack… Or at the end of the day, just maybe, falling debris from the ISS could burn a path through the sky, and a flaming toilet seat from the wreckage could literally vaporise my body upon impact (It’s a couple years too late for it to be Mir’s toilet seat, but I think someone else got that one).

    So yeah, not going to worry about food unless it’s from a place with a creepy clown mascot.

  28. TechnoDestructo says:

    Maybe the EPA should also have to approve GM crops?

  29. Dervish says:

    Sorry, this might be a little off topic, but it something I’ve seen a lot around these boards – has HFCS been conclusively shown to be as bad as most people here seem to think? I thought that at best there were conflicting studies about whether it’s been a contributor to the obesity epidemic. If someone could point me towards some scientific evidence one way or the other I’d be extremely grateful.

  30. lincolnparadox says:

    @Dervish: High fructose corn syrup is just a corn-based sweetener. It’s not the boogeyman that trans fats are. HFCS is the same as honey (HFCS has a fructose to glucose ratio of 1.22:1, honey is 1.24:1, but raw honey does contain other sugars and nutrients). It is metabolized in our bodies the same as sucrose.

    Still, even with Americans consuming less sugar overall than our European neighbors, HCFS is still considered a cause for our obesity. Why? Because it’s in everything, and not just candy bars and other desserts. It’s in ketchup/sauces/salad dressings, jams/jellies/peanut butter, sodas/juices, luncheon meats, and most prepackaged meals as a flavoring. Anytime a recipe calls for a pinch of sugar, they add a bunch of HFCS. Every premade meal you eat, and this usually includes all fast food, has unnecessary sugar. This sugar produces an insulin response, which leads to an “energy storage” response, first as glycogen, then as body fat.

    If you made the same meal at home, you would consume less sugar. This means a lower insulin response and less energy storage. So, check your labels for one day and look at how much sugar you’re consuming. Forget the starches and other carbohydrates. Just look at sugar. The FDA suggests that you keep your added sugar intake under 48g.

    You may be surprised with how much sugar you eat in a day. Cutting down on your sugar intake is a good idea, avoiding HFCS is just one way to make avoiding sugar easier.


    Schorin MD. 2005. High Fructose Corn Syrups, Part 1: Composition, Consumption, and Metabolism. Nutrition Today 40, 248-252

    Schorin MD. 2006. High Fructose Corn Syrups, Part 2: Health Effects. Nutrition Today 41, 70-77.

  31. Thrust says:

    @Dervish: There is only one contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in north america. It’s called self-control. Lack it, get fat.

    Yes there are some small number of people who are fat for serious genetic abnormalities and illnesses. They would amount to less than .001% of the population. Now OF the fat people out there, I’d guess at 50+ % of them think they are part of that .001%. And even for those who DO have such conditions, it’s not a case of “I’m gonna be fat so lets see how big I get before they declare me a dwarf planet”, GET your asses off the couch and it can be controlled. You won’t be the next Mila Jovovoich, but there’s no point being Roseanne Bar just because you can’t be Mila.

    I see women walk around the street with asses wider than the bench seat in the back of my matrix. There’s a lardass couple who I knew working at the pizzaria… They ordered 4-6 large cheese-stuffed-crust pizzas (typical toppings would be all five meats, or four meats plus feta), four to five cheese-stuffed crazybreads, three normal crazybreads (all the above mentioned, with extra butter on the crust/breads), and a pair of 2L cokes. They ordered this huge feast once pretty much every week. These fatasses were only barely able to squeeze into the restaurant, and then when they had the grub, they would pile into this mid-90’s Grand Am. Mr Lardo driving, with the wheel tucked between his moobs and thighs, and Mrs Gojira in the passenger seat with all the food on her lap, or more accurately, plastered onto the windshield. Sick sight to behold.

  32. Rusted says:

    @Jaysyn: Would that be bad? 6 billion and more.

  33. Mom2Talavera says:

    People need to see the documentary Future of Food.
    here are some clips

    Monsanto
    [www.vsocial.com]

    WTF are GM foods?
    [www.vsocial.com]

    ~Tally~

  34. McKay says:

    @ Technodestructo: The EPA does have to review some GM crops. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (say that five times fast), EPA reviews GM crops that produce pesticides, like the Bt crops that Dervish mentioned.

    This sort of thing would bother me a lot more if there were any scientific evidence that these modifications are dangerous. I haven’t seen any.

  35. Jiminy Christmas says:

    First of all, selective breeding and genetic modification as discussed here are not the same thing. No amount of selective breeding is going to get a fish gene into a tomato or a Brazil nut gene into a soybean.

    There are a lot of ways to look at this issue, one of which is property rights. What about the organic farmer whose crop gets cross-pollinated with Roundup Ready corn or some other genetically engineered product? That person is going to be out of business. What’s their recourse?

  36. Wubbytoes says:

    @Thrust:
    Moobs, LOL!
    I worked a lot of dirty fast food jobs when I was a lad and I saw all kinds of craziness like that.

  37. Jesse in Japan says:

    Jesus, this sounds like the plot of the next Metal Gear Solid game.

  38. Thrust says:

    @Jesse in Japan: Which? The mutant killer rice, or the land whales with more pizza than Italy?

    Or BOTH?

    Solid snake fights his evil enemy, Kinda Flabby Snake, and his army of brainwashed rice-zombies. Enter MetalGear Moob, the largest metal gear ever, sporting a wife-beater, a pair of mantits each the size of a water tower, and carrying a six-pack of some piss-water american beer.

  39. Dervish says:

    @lincolnparadox: I know what HFCS is, and I know it’s pervasive in processed foods, but some people here seem to be citing it as an inherently bad ingredient. It seems to me that it would be better for people to watch their overall calorie content (through whatever means) rather than simply go out of their way to avoid foods containing HFCS.

    And yes, if you cook/bake at home, you’ll use much, much less sugar. The problem with HFCS (and sugar in general) is that it’s extremely functional in many products. In many cases the food industry needs to use it to be able to deliver the kind of processed foods that (some) people expect – they’re not doing it just to be unhealthy. Processed foods have a LOT of crap in them that gives them a long shelf life, or allows them to be frozen for months on end, or makes them tolerant to temperature changes while being shipped across the country. If manufacturers could leave this stuff out and still make the same product, they absolutely would because it would mean huge dollars in cost savings. Please note that I’m not trying to defend them here – that’s just how the industry works, for better or (usually, for America in general) worse.