A new genetically modified corn is being developed that can stop a deadly fungus named aflatoxin that is common in corn, wheat, and rice. According to Newsweek, exposure to aflatoxin can be deadly and the fungus has been closely linked to liver cancer. Unfortunately, developing countries are not well equipped to screen for the toxin and it can spread due to improper storing.
Thankfully, scientists at the University of Arizona have developed a new scientific technique that will stop aflatoxin in its tracks:
Monica Schmidt and colleagues at the Arizona Genomics Institute used a technique called host-induced gene silencing, a branch of a broader approach to genetics known as RNA interference. They create a genetic sequence containing the desired fungal trait—that is, an absence of aflatoxin production—and insert that sequence into the corn. That sequence is then transferred to the infecting fungal cell, overriding the genetic code linked to aflatoxin production.
Schmidt and her team grew corn plants with and without the introduced RNA sequence and then injected aflatoxin-producing Aspergillus into all the plants. When they harvested the kernels and measured their aflatoxin levels, they found no aflatoxin in the experimental plants. Corn without the newly introduced RNA sequences had aflatoxin levels of up to 225,000 parts per billion. Schmidt is now studying the feasibility of stopping the growth of the Aspergillus fungus, not just the toxin it produces, by interfering with corn RNA.
Schmidt’s analysis, published recently in Science Advances, revealed no other changes to the corn. “You should still be getting all the nutritional value,” she says. But more tests are needed to confirm that her experimental strain of corn is unaltered aside from shutting off aflatoxin production. Nancy Keller, who studies fungal pathogens at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also emphasizes the importance of studying the corn outside of a greenhouse laboratory. Regulatory agencies would insist on all this testing before allowing the modified corn to be introduced globally.
Despite more tests being needed, the new method to stop aflatoxin is very promising. Nancy Keller did point out that government bureaucracy and public opinion maybe a roadblock. Hopefully that is not the case. However, one thing that is certain environmentalists are obviously salivating in hopes of being able to halt this technique. They can lobby one or all of the three federal agencies that regulate GMO’s, conduct disinformation campaigns in order to halt their production or even consumption like they have done in places like Africa and the Philippines.
Environmentalists behind the slander campaigns against GMO’s along with organizations that fund and manufacture them have contributed to the deaths of thousands of people with their words and activities. After Europe banned the export of bio-tech foods to third world countries, the result has been massive starvations and death. The attack by environmentalist groups such as CSFA on GMO’s is as much an assault on our food supply as much as it is grounded in their hatred not only of science and human life.