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Perhaps the most interesting thing about the article is that the Cornell professor she quotes, Dr. Bruce Reisch, shows up several times in the comment section. Reisch takes issue with much of what Martenson writes and argues that the United States food system is “one of the very best in the world,” the success of which “includes the ongoing and widespread consumption of a multitude of products from plant genetic engineering, and these products have an excellent track record of…production of healthy food products.” Martenson counters with arguments about U.S. approval of products (such as bovine growth hormone) that are not allowed in other first-world countries and adds that “many third-world countries will not even accept GE crops as food aid.” The exchange is civil, extended, and enlightening and may be found here: http://www.napavalleyregister.com/articles/2007/03/15/opinion/commentary/doc45f9480b21e0e837159310.txt

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Bluto April 3, 2008 @ 11:07 p.m.

First of all, you can't ever prove something is safe. All you can do with a study is prove that something is not safe. You can never prove that genetically changed materials are safe - and that shadow of doubt is all that naysayers like Erica need in order to keep getting their names in lights. Second, she assumes that scientists and company executives are bad people, who only want to make money, at the expense of people and nature. She needs to be careful in what she says and have her knowledge down right. She needs to be careful about talking about transgenic (switching genes from different animals) and genetic enhancement using the yeast genes own genetic material. There is a huge difference. As for ethyl carbamate, it hasn't been shown to cause cancer in humans because performing studies on this to prove that would be unethical, something the Nazis did. However, its so cancer causing, it's ability to cause cancer is so stable, it's actually used as a baseline to compare how cancer causing other substances are. And she says that we should continue keeping it in wine? Finally, I've worked in the past with companies who have had to deal with consumer "advocates" like Erica. Dealing with them opens up a huge can of worms. You write a response and they pick that apart to keep the debate going. People like Erica are only interested in getting their name in lights and you writing her up just fans the flames. Good work writing a one-sided story not talking to anyone on the other side. Nice lazy work!!

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Eric April 4, 2008 @ 4:11 p.m.

Actually, the developer of these yeasts could have done animal feeding trials to test for toxicity, the same way developers of new food additives do. And since there have been studies showing that GMOing yeasts can produce toxicity, that's exactly what he should have done. The developer of these yeasts is the lazy one (along with the FDA, which doesn't require such tests), not the writer of this article. There have also been studies showing that ethyl carbamate (when in wine) does not cause cancer in lab animals, supporting the idea that wine has other properties (i.e. resveratrol) that counteract any carcinogenic effects of ethyl carbamate. So there is no reason to take a chance on this type of GE wine yeast, healthwise or marketwise.

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Eric April 4, 2008 @ 4:18 p.m.

Transgenic just means inserting genes from a foreign species. (It doesn't have to be from an animal.) The ML01 GE yeast is transgenic, because the developer inserted a gene from a bacteria to make it.
In any event, the genes being from a foreign species isn't the main issue. The main issue is the fact that the insertion of genes, any genes, is inherently disruptive and can affect the way the whole organism functions. Get your facts straight, Bruto.

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DrJoe April 6, 2008 @ 3:23 p.m.

Notes on the self cloned wine yeast debate: The debate about self cloned wine yeast seemed to centered on one individual who believed that the carcinogen ethyl carbamate (urethane) should not be left in the wine and that people cannot be tested to identify human carcinogens. As one reader commented the urethane in wine is less cancer causing in wine than out of it. That is a well supported observation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (a United Nations Agency) is probably the best authority on cancer causing chemicals. Their report is summarized as follows: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Meetings/96-ethylcarbamate.pdf IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Ethylcarbamate (urethane) Carcinogenicity in experimental animals There is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of ethyl carbamate. Overall evaluation Ethyl carbamate is probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A). The groups are as follows: Group 1 carcinogenic to humans (87 chemicals ); Group 2A probably carcinogenic to humans (63); Group 2B possibly carcinogenicto humans (234);Group 3 not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans (493); Group 4 probably not carcinogenic to humans (1).There is little question that urethane is hazardous to humans. However, urethane in wine is mitigated by the well known anti cancer chemicals in wine. Thus the carcinogen is neutralized by the anti-cancer chemicals in wine. Urethane removal by genetic modification seems to be a greater risk than just letting the wine ant-cancer chemicals do their job.
My main concern about the self cloned yeast is expressed in ISIS Press Release 08/01/07 Self-Cloned' Wine Yeasts Not Necessarily Safe by Prof. Joe Cummins “Nevertheless, even self-cloned yeasts must be subject to rigorous and comprehensive safety tests, as it has already been demonstrated that changing the expression of a single gene in yeast can have unexpected effects. In 1995, Japanese researchers reported that a transgenic yeast engineered for increased rate of fermentation with multiple copies of one of its own genes ended up accumulating the metabolite methylglyoxal at toxic, mutagenic levels to humans (1).”My main objection to self cloned yeast is that they must be tested carefully changes to a single gene can lead to unexpected and dangerous consequences.

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Eric April 6, 2008 @ 8:36 p.m.

I think it's also important to point out that many fermented foods and beverages contain urethane, including bread and soy sauce; so this issue is not exclusive to wine, and these products don't have the anti-cancer properties that wine has. It would certainly be careless to begin using GE yeast that has not been safety tested to ferment these foods/beverages to reduce urethane, ameliorating one health issue only to perhaps create a different health issue.

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