Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Life and Times of BioChica as Told Through GMO Legislation Around the World

As you may know, I'm not American. The spouse and Mr Chubby-Cheeks were born in the US, whereas I was born in Canada. But that's not the whole story: my parents are Iranian who fled the Islamic revolution in 1979 due to their religion, I was born in Canada, raised in Venezuela (which is why I've written about dengue), and I actually met the spouse while working for a year in Israel. I don't know where we'll end up: probably wherever I get decent job offers. Until today, my blog has been very US-centric, but this post will have a more international angle.

This article is about different nations' laws and regulations surrounding GMOs. A common argument that you may read about the dangers of GMOs is how different countries around the world have banned them or have legislation around them. Here's an example from the Non-GMO Project's website:

"Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs."

You can see how this can lead to a conspiracy theory with the following narrative: GMOs aren't properly tested in the United States. In Europe, scientists have discovered that GMOs can be harmful and they've been banned. But in the US, the FDA is in bed with Monsanto, which is why we're eating these toxic poisons and we aren't being told the truth.

To quote Professor Higgins, it's "so deliciously low, so horribly dirty!" Hence the appeal of this particular conspiracy theory. 

In terms of "bans", there's actually only one country in the world that has an outright ban: Kenya. Recently, there have been calls to lift the ban due to farming losses. 

All other countries have laws and regulations surrounding biotech crops. That includes the United States. There's a reason why you can't just make a transgenic crop and have it sold in stores the following season. So, for the rest of this article, I'm going to look at laws surrounding GMOs in 4 different countries: Canada, Israel, Venezuela and Iran. 

It's the "The Life and Times of BioChica as told Through GMO Legislation Around the World". 

GMO Legislation in Venezuela, Iran, Israel, and Canada
Venezuela: Venezuela's story about GMOs is fascinating (in my biased opinion). To understand Venezuela's stance on GMOs, a bit of a background is needed: Hugo Chavez was elected as Venezuela's president in 1999 and remained in power till his death in 2013. He led a "socialist revolution" that took a very hard anti-American, "anti-imperialist" stance (whatever that means...). As such, much of the policies in the country reflect this attitude. In 2002, Chavez passed a "seed law" which included the establishment of an institute that would oversee the testing, development and research of transgenics. However, in 2004 Chavez made the sudden decision of cancelling a contract with Monsanto, which was about to plant 500,000 acres of GM corn. There was no legal ban, yet no one has planted transgenic crops in Venezuela ever since the incident, which was paired with Chavez's public statement: "the people of the United States, of Latin America and the world, should follow the example of Venezuela and be free of transgenics.”

However, Venezuela relies very heavily on imports and food shortages have become increasingly common the last decade and have hit an all-time high in the last 1-2 years. Two of Venezuela's biggest import partners are Argentina and Brazil, who also happen to be global leaders in the number of acres dedicated to transgenic crops. Despite the fact that Venezuela needs a dramatic increase in food production to meet the demands of its growing population, it plans to pass a law that will straight-out ban growing GMOs.

Here's where it gets interesting. This story comes from Dr Felix Moronta (@morontafelix) who generously gave me permission to translate the story from his website. A recent study published in a regional journal examined 12 Venezuelan corn growers in 2011: 10 were government owned and 2 were privately owned, and these represented 70% of the corn growers in the country. Using tests that searched for the transgenic protein as well as for transgenic DNA, the authors were able to determine that a government owned company was actually growing transgenic Bt-corn (for more info on Bt-corn and transgenic proteins, please see previous post). The authors were also able to determine that the crop being grown carried a patented trait (transgenic event TC1507). The journal article, as well it's summary by Dr Moronta, ask the government to 'fess up and to clarify their stance. As Dr Moronta eloquently outlines, the government is banning growing and doing research on GMOs, yet they import tons of GM grains and goods, AND they're growing them on the DL. Makes no sense...

I can only conclude that Venezuela's position has NOTHING to do with the safety of transgenics. If it was legitimately about safety, then there would be laws surrounding their import. In reading articles and news stories, the sense that I get is that Venezuela's ban on transgenics seems to be due to 1) sticking it to "imperialist" big-Ag. 2) striving for food sovereignty and 3) removing GM seeds from the equation so that small farmers can be successful in the socialist revolution. However, there's no evidence that the moratorium on growing GMOs has contributed to any of these goals given the devastating food shortages.

Iran: Unfortunately, I can only read Farsi up to a 1st or 2nd grade level at best, so most of this information came through translated material. Only one transgenic crop has been approved for cultivation in Iran: rice. It makes perfect sense: rice is eaten every day in an Iranian household. According to my dad, it's not real food unless it has rice. A form of Bt-rice was approved in 2004, but when President Ahmadinejad took office in 2005, his administration "decided against the release of GM crops". It's important to note that Iran was the first nation to commercialize transgenic rice and this article outlines how Iran had hoped to quickly follow this success with additional crops. There was no ban or legislation against GMOs. Apparently, the decision to drop the commercialization of GMOs was due to the lack of a "biosafety law in the country, and 2) lack of harmonization among different stakeholders (Ministry of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Organization etc.)". However, the Iranian government now feels that a decent biosafety law is now established, and the law's text states that the government should facilitate the release, research, commercialization, etc of GMOs.

Makes sense:  I don't think that international companies based out of the US would be allowed to trade with Iran due to the current sanctions that are in place, so Iran's probably trying to figure out a way to boost food production. Mmmmmmmm... Tahchin made with GM rice... Drool...

Israel: Before I start this section, I've got to tell you something about Israel. It's a desert. It's hot. It can be really dusty. But despite all this, the local fruits and veggies are spectacular (here's Wikipedia's article on agriculture in Israel). There are no GMOs commercialized in Israel, even though the country is a hotbed for research into GMOs. This comes as no surprise considering the interest that the nation has in drought-resistant crops. Apparently, this is due to the fact that a very large portion of Israel's agricultural exports head to the EU, where they are slow to approve transgenic crops for import and have labelling laws as well. As such, growing GMOs might have financial repercussions if the EU were to decide to be more wary of Israeli produce.

I couldn't find the actual text of any laws. If anyone out there knows where I could find them, please let me know.

Canada: This database lists a slew of GMOs that have been approved for cultivation in Canada. Health Canada's website has a great description of the regulatory process to gain approval for cultivation and/or sale of a new crop. When someone is interested in submitting a new crop, they're encouraged to consult with Health Canada beforehand to determine if there are any potential red flags. Then they submit the paperwork and undergo a scientific assessment. Health Canada can request additional information, will summarize it's findings, prepares a ruling, and then posts the information on the Health Canada website. It seems very similar to the process in the US under the FDA.

What struck me when I was doing research for this article, is how little the science of GMOs were mentioned. I didn't find any evidence to support the Non-GMO projects' statement that "most developed countries do not consider GMOs to be safe", albeit I only looked into 4 countries for this article. However, these 4 countries are extremely diverse in terms of economic status and development, as well as their relationship with the US. Despite these differences, I think that the common thread in this article seems to be the fact that laws for and against GMOs are economic or political in nature, and have little to do with safety. If it were genuinely about safety, then they'd ban the import of GMOs and join the ranks of Kenya.

Happy New Year y'all! Or, Feliz Año!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Transgenic Crops and Traits

So, the spouse has often complained that I don't have a post with an overview of what transgenesis means and the transgenic (GMO) crops themselves. They're scattered throughout the history of this blog, but not in a single place.

Transgenesis means taking a gene (or genes) from one species and sticking it into another. Unlike another process known as cisgenesis, transgenesis involves adding genes from a species that is sexually incompatible with the organism in question. Transgenesis is like taking a gene from a pomegranate and adding it to a Granny Smith apple. In contrast, cisgenesis is like taking a gene from a Red Delicious apple and adding it to a Granny Smith apple. For transgenesis, the species doesn't even have to be a plant: you can take a gene from an animal or bacteria and add it to a crop/plant or viceversa.

What does this mean? To explain, I have to go to the beginning: the working units within any cell are proteins. Proteins are made up by linking together amino acids in a given sequence. The exact amino acid sequence is defined in the cell's DNA; the DNA blueprint for a specific protein is known as a gene for that protein. In general, one gene encodes for one protein (of course, there are exceptions). Since there are thousands of proteins, there are thousands of genes. We're still figuring out what different genes/proteins accomplish.

Spouse: I think that you've been surprised by the fact that I can't just "make up" a protein. I wish!!! No, biotech still isn't at the point where I can say "I'm going to invent a DNA sequence that's a blueprint for a protein that will make the plants absorb more water". That would be AWESOME. The best we can do right now is to look in nature at the plants/animals/bacteria that have the trait that we want, find out what protein accomplishes that task, and then use it in transgenesis. The reason why this is important in discussions about transgenesis is that the proteins that have been added to GMOs are already in nature.

In transgenic crops, they've taken one or more genes from different species and added them to the plant's DNA so that you have new genes/proteins in the plant. That brings us to the main point of this article: what are some of the more popular genes/proteins that have been added to commercial transgenic crops or GMOs.

Transgenic proteins currently used in US agriculture can be split into 3 broad categories: herbicide tolerance, insect resistance and disease resistance. Here are some of the traits used in each category (NOTE: this is not a full list. You can find all traits in this database):

Herbicide tolerance
  • EPSP synthase. A wonderfully short abbreviation for the painfully long "5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate (EPSP) synthase". EPSP synthase is a protein that naturally exists in bacteria, plants, and fungi. The protein is part of a system that makes several crucial amino acids in these organisms. The active ingredient in weed killers such as Round-Up is "glyphosate", a synthetic compound that blocks EPSP synthase. The plant can't make the amino acids that it needs to survive so it dies. In order to make plants resistant to glyphosate, the EPSP synthase enzyme from a bacteria was added to the plants. This bacterial enzyme does the same thing (ie. it synthesizes the amino acids) but it's just different enough that glyphosate doesn't block it.

    It's important to note that EPSP synthase doesn't exist in mammals, which is why glyphosate has low toxicity. My previous post on glyphosate is here.

    In the US, the transgenic crops cultivated with the EPSP synthase gene are: alfalfa, canola, cotton, corn, soy, and sugar beet.

  • AAD Enzyme. Another mercifully short abbreviation for "aryloxyalkanoate dioxygenase enzyme" and is from the bacterial species Sphingobium herbicidovorans. The protein breaks down 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), a pesticide that's been used for many decades because it kills broadleaf weeds. 2,4-D mimics a natural plant hormone in these weeds, causing their leaves to grow uncontrollably, wither, and the plant eventually dies. The AAD-1 protein allows the plant to break down 2,4-D, so nothing happens to it (for a diagram of the biochemical reaction, please see here).

    In the US, there's only one transgenic crop with the AAD-1 gene approved for cultivation: corn made by Dow Agro was just granted approval this year. However, there are several others in the works. 
Insect resistance
It seems odd that no one is demanding for labeling of GM cotton
Image from Wikimedia commons
  • Bt trait/Cry protein. There are several proteins from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that have been used in various crops and they're known as Cry proteins. Apparently, there are over 200 different Cry proteins from the Bt bacteria and they're toxic to specific orders of insects and nematodes. The insects that Cry proteins target are not all the same, which is why different proteins are used. Additionally, since the protein is toxic to insects, you may also see it referred to as "Bt-toxin". This website from UCSD offers a really simple explanation on how the Bt-toxin works: the protein dissolves in the high pH environment in the insect's gut. Then, it binds to receptors in the bug's gut causing the wall in gut to dissolve, which eventually kills the insect.

    Cry proteins are also used in organic farming (if you weren't aware that organic food production uses pesticides, please see bullet #2 here). The pesticide is considered to be benign to humans because the protein's mechanism of action doesn't work on mammals: our guts have a low pH and we don't have the receptors that the Cry protein binds to.

    Bt-corn and Bt-cotton have been commercialized. There's exciting work being done with Bt-eggplant in Bangladesh.

Disease Resistance
    We had a papaya tree in our backyard in Venezuela.
    I love the stuff, but the spouse can't even stand the smell.
    Image from Wikimedia Commons. 
  • Proteins from plant virus coats. In the United States, there are two commercial crops that have disease resistant traits: summer squash and papaya. Hawaii's Rainbow papaya is one of the great success stories of transgenesis: the papaya ringspot virus was threatening to wipe out this crop, which is a $17 million industry for Hawaiian farmers. In 1997, farmers started planting Rainbow papayas which have a protein from the virus itself. Likewise, transgenic summer squash carries proteins from several viruses which can harm this crop. I previously read up and shared my learning about how these proteins confer disease resistance to transgenic crops. Briefly, the transgene encodes for a protein from the virus (coat-protein) and this "blocks" the infection process from starting (interferes with the virus' disassembly). This is known as "coat-protein mediated resistance" or CP-MR. 
As you can see, there are no blue-strawberries or fish-tomatoes in the list. Such crops have never even made it far enough to start the regulatory approval process. I had written a conclusion for this article, with something along the lines of "See?? There's nothing scary about transgenesis! All you're doing is taking a protein that we know a lot about and moving it into a plant." But then I realized that to a lot of people, that can be scary, so I think I need to explain just a tad further.

You may have read arguments from GMO advocates stating that "we've been genetically modifying food for thousands of years. There's nothing different here." To a large extent, that's true. When you cross breed two compatible species, it's generally because there are specific qualities from species A and species B that you want to blend into a single species. For example, you may want to cross a rice strain that is naturally insect resistant with a second strain that grows very quickly. When you perform such a cross, you're blending all the genes from the two rice strains and then trying to find the hybrid that has all the traits that you're looking for.

Now, imagine instead that you know EXACTLY what gene/protein(s) caused the insect resistance in the first rice strain. Instead of crossing the two strains and blending together thousands of proteins, you specifically add this one protein to the second strain. How would you feel about that? My guess is that the vast majority of individuals would be OK with it. Now how would you feel if that gene/protein came from barley and you're adding it to rice? Again, I think many would be fine with it.

But what if it came from a bacteria?

I think that THIS is where the fear creeps in: the addition of a gene from a species that "doesn't belong". To be clear, I have no evidence to suggest this and have never polled anyone on this topic: it's just from conversations that I've had. And I think the reason why the majority of scientists don't have this fear is because we see things as proteins, and genes, and units, and no gene "belongs" to a species. We see genes/proteins as building blocks that came into existence in viruses and bacteria, and have changed, morphed, been copied, and erased throughout evolution. I work with enzymes (proteins) that have been mutated and morphed by companies so that they do what scientists need them to do in the lab. Back in grad-school, we added and removed genes in mice to figure out what they did in human disease. It was so common, that it had it's own term: "making a mouse". So the concept of adding a gene that we know a lot about into another species doesn't scare me nearly as much as it freaks out the spouse. In reviewing this piece, he agreed with my assessment adding that he views a species as a whole, whereas I view a species as bits and pieces that make a whole.

Feel free to comment below!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Quit asking me to prove that GMOs are safe

So I'm writing this article out of frustration and it's probably going to be a long rant. It's inspired by several of the comments that I've received for articles I've written for the Genetic Literacy Project.

Quit asking me to prove to you that GMOs are safe. That's a ridiculous request which I won't be able to do. To explain why, we're going to do an exercise and try to prove that water is safe. The first thing to keep in mind is that there are many aspects to safety. In our example, we have to select an aspect of water safety that we want to examine: health impact, water transportation, water treatment, proper water storage, etc. For our example, we're going to select "health impact".

Then, we have to come up with a null hypothesis. Spouse, I know that it's counter-intuitive and the double negatives in these statements suck, but unfortunately, it's a key aspect of this whole article. The baseline for much of research is that there's no impact or no difference. It's the researcher's responsibility to disprove that hypothesis, ie. to show that there is a difference or that there is an impact. So for our exercise, our hypothesis will be "Drinking water does not cause cancer".

Next step, narrow down the hypothesis to a question, i.e what we're actually going to test. For our study, we're going to say "Individuals who have lived in the Alameda County of the San Francisco Bay Area for 10-20 years and drink 2-4 cups of tap water daily do not have a greater incidence of breast cancer than the national average".

We conduct our study and gather data which will probably take a few years. Then we apply the proper statistics. If our study finds a difference, then we've disproven our null hypothesis and much hoopla will be made. If there's no difference, then our null hypothesis still stands and our study will be published in a not-so-important journal and we won't win the Nobel prize.

So, let's say that we find no difference in breast cancer incidence in water drinkers. Have we "proven" that water is "safe"? No. All we've done is add data to the body of evidence that suggests that drinking water does not cause cancer and that it's safe to drink it. But you haven't "proven that it's safe". In fact, water can be considered downright dangerous. Drink too little and you die; drink too much and you die; if it's not properly purified you can diet; etc. The experiments that have been performed have helped identify the possible dangers inherent in water and how to minimize the risks.

Here are a few other examples of a broad hypothesis along with a more narrow question of what will be tested:

Broad: The MMR vaccine does not cause autism. Narrow: There is no significant difference in the incidence of autism between African-American children who have received Merck's MMR vaccine in the San Jose Bay Area and controls.

Broad: Eating transgenic crops does not harm the gut. Narrow: There is no significant difference in the relative abundance of X bacteria in the intestinal flora of pigs fed a diet consisting of 30% genetically modified Bt-corn for 30 days compared to a control diet.

Again, let's say that you are unable to disprove your null hypothesis. Does that mean that you've proven that the MMR vaccine doesn't cause autism? No. Have you proven that GMOs do not impact the bacteria in the gut? No. What you've done is add data to a body of evidence that suggests that the MMR vaccine doesn't cause autism and that GMOs don't cause harm.

Until someone comes up with a study showing that A causes B, then the null hypothesis is what we turn to: A does not cause B. Otherwise you can hypothesize that when you drop something, it's caused by a ghost who pushed it off your counter, or that earthquakes are caused by invisible dragons jumping all at the same time, and people have to "prove you wrong".... That's not the way it works. Dragons didn't cause the earthquake and ghosts didn't cause the bottle to fall, until you can prove otherwise.

So when you ask me to prove to you that GMOs are safe or to provide a paper that has this evidence, that is absolutely the wrong thing to be asking. Ask a specific question and then try to find the data showing that it DOES cause harm. And I can't provide you with that either because I haven't read a well-designed, well-executed study demonstrating that GMOs cause harm or have a negative health impact. If you have a study at hand, by all means, send it my way.

THIS is why scientists stress the number of studies that have examined GMOs. THIS is why scientists stress the statements made by academic and scientific societies about GMOs. Because no single study proves safety: its the sum of the studies, the body of data, the totality of research that's been done which suggest that the current GMOs on the market are safe.

My last point is this: as I noted above, negative data or being unable to disprove your hypothesis is not sexy. It doesn't really build a career for a research scientist in the current academic system, nor do you get big grants. So many researchers will not pursue a path where they don't see fruitful results. I don't agree with the system and think that it needs to change and its one of many reasons why I'm in the private sector. But for now, this is what scientists in the public arena have to deal with. So if you don't see a study being conducted, maybe that's why. Instead of thinking that it's because the big-fluoride cartel is paying off scientists, it's more likely that a scientist doesn't want to waste her time to figure out if fluoridation of water causes breast cancer when there's no logical way she could see that happening. Maybe the reason why no one has published a paper examining a link between Round-Up Ready corn and Alzheimer isn't because Monsanto is breaking scientists' kneecaps; rather, it's because the experts in the field have seen no reason to pursue that path based on the evidence at hand. Maybe the reason why you can't find data comparing the incidence rate of autism in African-American children in a population of vaccinated children vs a population of controls isn't because big-Pharma is paying off the big journals, but it's probably because such a study would never be approved by an ethics board because you're putting the un-vaccinated population at risk. 

If you want to see that data, by all means: spend 10 years of your life in school earning less than minimum wage, and then try to find a granting agency that will fund your study based on whatever evidence and reasoning you have. Best of luck to you in your future career path!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Natural pesticides: what have I been eating?!?!

Several months ago, there was a thread on the GMO Skeptiforum on Facebook about natural pesticides. It's one of the threads I learned from the most, so I thought I'd share some of it here along with the papers to back it up.

So, what are "natural pesticides"? Plants and animals have evolved mechanisms to fight against their predators. Some of them are mechanical, like thorns or spines on a puffer fish, but some are chemicals or natural pesticides.

It's important not to let the term "pesticide" confuse you. When the spouse read this article, he said that he didn't get why I used the term "pesticide" to describe a component/chemical in a plant. We're used to thinking of pesticides as the stuff we spray on plants or around our house to get rid of bugs. But the term "pesticide" is much broader than that: it's any substance that gets rid of or repels a pest. The term encompasses many different -cides: herbicides (to get rid of plants), fungicide (to get rid of fungi), insecticides (to get rid of insects), etc, etc. A natural pesticide can be toxic to the pest that its evolved to target, so I use the term "toxin" in this piece as well. These pesticides or toxins can be very specific in the organisms that they target: for example, the Bt-toxin which is found in different GMOs is actually from a bacteria in the soil and it is toxic to various insects, but the way it works doesn't impact mammals; chocolate is toxic to dogs, but not to humans; etc.

I first became aware of natural pesticides in my teens when my mom told me that I shouldn't buy green potatoes because they can make you sick. Back when we lived in Venezuela, every Friday morning my mom would go to the market to buy our fresh produce for the week. In my last two years of high school, I was lucky enough to not have morning classes on my schedule, which turned out to be unlucky for me because I'd get dragged out to the market. Unlike the fru-fru-shee-shee farmer's markets we've got in California, the market in Barquisimeto, Venezuela was dirty and really crowded. I always got stuck buying the potatoes, tomatoes, and passion fruit, while my mom bought the greens, papayas and melons. The potatoes were caked with dirt, so I'd have to smack them to see if they were green or not. Most of the time they were. As I got older, I wondered if my mom's advice was a mythical Persian legend or if it was legit, and Wikipedia helped me find the answer.

All plants should bear a warning symbol
given the amount of toxic substances they contain
Potatoes are a member of the nightshade family which have a poison called solanine present in different parts of the plant. This paper from Lancet published in 1979 states that potatoes have small amounts of solanine in the peel and none in the flesh, but when the potato starts to green or sprout (i.e. the 'eyes' start growing), then the amount increases significantly. Solanine levels also increase in potatoes when they're diseased, such as with the blight, and is probably part of the plant's defense system. The Lancet paper documents several cases of solanine poisoning from eating potatoes, but they were not typical cases (for example, individuals may have been malnurished). Current guidelines from the NIH state that eating solanine in very small amounts can be toxic and recommends throwing out spoiled potatoes or those that are green below the skin.

But solanine is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to natural pesticides. Here are a few others:
The list is virtually endless. In 1990, Bruce Ames published a paper entitled "Dietary pesticides (99.99% all natural)". In it, he and his coauthors outline that we eat an estimated 1.5 grams of natural pesticides a day, "which is about 10,000 times more" than the amount of synthetic pesticide residues we eat. This amount would be significantly higher in vegetarians and vegans. As an example, the authors provide a list of 49 different pesticides found in cabbage alone. The concentrations of these pesticides are in parts per thousand or parts per million, whereas the amount of synthetic pesticides we find on our food are in the parts per billion range.

Despite the vast amount of toxins in our diet, only a handful of these have ever been tested (note that the paper was written in 1990, but the point still stands). The paper highlights that of all the chemicals tested for chronic cancer tests in animals, only 5% have been natural pesticides and half of these were carcinogenic.

Think about that for a moment. While there's an uproar about parts per billion amounts of synthetic pesticide, there are more concentrated compounds in fruits and veggies known to cause cancer (at much higher doses). In addition, some pesticides used in agriculture have mechanisms of action that are specific to the pests their targeting. I've already given the example of Bt-toxin, but glyphosate shuts down a biochemical pathway in plants that simply doesn't exist in mammals. For some reason, we're far more concerned about these two compounds than we are about natural formaldehyde in pears. Check out the FANTASTIC graphic at the end of this article that highlights this point: we fear anything that's synthetic because we assume that it's "bad for us", but there's plenty of stuff that's "natural" that can be harmful at the appropriate dose (I wanted to entitle this article "The Hidden Carcinogens in Your Food", but it seemed too click-bait-y).

I've read  a lot of arguments from anti-GMO groups about how transgenic crops that have the Bt-toxin will kill us all, because it's a registered pesticide with the EPA. "Do you want to eat something that's a pesticide???" is what I've read time and time again. There are plenty of "natural chemicals" that are registered pesticides, as I've noted above, but no one seems to be freaking out about basil and mustard seeds. Additionally, what many GMO-advocates will point out is that the cross-breeding and "natural" hybridizations we've been doing for centuries has undoubtedly impacted the levels of some of these pesticides by unknown amounts, because no one examines them. Going back to solanine, in the '60s a new strain of potato known as the "Lenape" potato was developed through "natural" methods, but was found to be toxic due to increased levels of solanine: it had ~2-4x the amount of solanine found in other potato varieties and it had to be pulled off the shelves. But no one seems to be screaming about "unintended consequences" of traditional crossbreeding.

Well, 'tis my bed time. I hope all had a great thanksgiving. You can probably thank natural pesticides for half the flavors in the delicious food you ate!!

Natural vs Man Made Synthetic Chemicals Toxicity