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FDA to Block Pomegranate Seeds from Turkey; Townsend Recall Expands

Updated July 30 with expanded recall information:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Saturday it will detain shipments of pomegranate seeds from Turkey as health officials have narrowed the likely cause of a Hepatitis A outbreak that has sickened at least 127 people in 8 states. On Sunday, one of the frozen berry recalls associated with the outbreak expanded.

The agency has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and state and local health authorities for several weeks to try and track down the ingredient making people sick. Health officials have now determined that the “most likely vehicle” for the virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading of Turkey that were used by Townsend Farms to make Organic Antioxidant Blend, a mix of frozen berries, sold to Costco and Harris Teeter stores.

FDA is now barring Goknur from shipping pomegranate seeds into the United States. It is not clear how much product is impacted, but an FDA official noted that Turkey is a “minor player” compared to countries like India, Iran, China, and Thailand, when it comes to providing pomegranate to the U.S. market.

“This outbreak highlights the food safety challenge posed by today’s global food system,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in a press release over the weekend. “The presence in a single product of multiple ingredients from multiple countries compounds the difficulty of finding the cause of an illness outbreak. The Hepatitis A outbreak shows how we have improved our ability to investigate and respond to outbreaks, but also why we are working to build a food safety system that more effectively prevents them.”

The Townsend Farms blend has been linked to the multistate outbreak affecting mostly western states. According to CDC, about half of the reported Hepatitis A cases are in California.

Colorado has reported 25 and Arizona 17. Hawaii is reporting 7, New Mexico and Nevada have 5 cases and Utah and Wisconsin have 2 each. The cases reported in Wisconsin, however, resulted from exposure to the product in California, according to health officials.

Nearly 60 percent of those sickened are women. The ages in the outbreak range from 2 to 84 and include 6 children under the age of 18. CDC said none of the children had been vaccinated. More than half of those ill required hospitalization.

The outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus, belonging to genotype 1B, is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East, according to CDC.

The outbreak has sparked several large recalls. In early June, Townsend Farms recalled more than 300,000 four pound packages of the frozen berries sold at Costco and then issued another recall of berries sold at Harris Teeter. Last week, Scenic Fruit Company recalled over 60,000 bags of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels because their product, imported from Turkey, has the potential to be contaminated with Hepatitis A.

On Sunday, FDA announced the Townsend Farms frozen berry recall has been expanded again. The company is now recalling Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, 3 lb. bag with UPC 0 78414 40444 8. The codes are located on the back of the package with the words “BEST BY” followed by the code T122114 sequentially through T053115, followed by a letter. All letter designations are included in the voluntary recall, according to the expanded recall announcement.

The announcement also said that the epidemiological evidence “does not support an association between the illness outbreak and the four other berry products (raspberry, blueberry, strawberry and dark cherry) in the Frozen Organic Antioxidant blend,” which were also used in other Townsend Farms products, so consumers do not have reason to be concerned about those berries.

Townsend Farms said an FDA inspection of the company’s frozen fruit repacking operations has been completed. “The FDA found no evidence linking either the Townsend Farms, Inc.’s repacking facility or any food handler who had possible contact with the product to the source of the illness outbreak,” according to the release.

Hepatitis A, a liver disease, can range from mild to severe and can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Symptoms usually occur within 15 to 50 days of exposure and include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.

If a person has been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus within two weeks or less, they may be able to prevent the disease by receiving a vaccine. Consumers who may have eaten recalled product or have Hepatitis A symptoms should consult with their healthcare provider or their local health department.

 

Food Safety News

FDA to Block Pomegranate Seeds from Turkey Linked to Outbreak

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Saturday it will detain shipments of pomegranate seeds from Turkey as health officials have narrowed the likely cause of a Hepatitis A outbreak that has sickened at least 127 people in 8 states.

The agency has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and state and local health authorities for several weeks to try and track down the ingredient making people sick. Health officials have now determined that the “most likely vehicle” for the virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading of Turkey that were used by Townsend Farms to make Organic Antioxidant Blend, a mix of frozen berries, sold to Costco and Harris Teeter stores.

FDA is now barring Goknur from shipping pomegranate seeds into the United States. It is not clear how much product is impacted, but an FDA official noted that Turkey is a “minor player” compared to countries like India, Iran, China, and Thailand, when it comes to providing pomegranate to the U.S. market.

“This outbreak highlights the food safety challenge posed by today’s global food system,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in a press release over the weekend. “The presence in a single product of multiple ingredients from multiple countries compounds the difficulty of finding the cause of an illness outbreak. The Hepatitis A outbreak shows how we have improved our ability to investigate and respond to outbreaks, but also why we are working to build a food safety system that more effectively prevents them.”

The Townsend Farms blend has been linked to the multistate outbreak affecting mostly western states. According to CDC, about half of the reported Hepatitis A cases are in California.

Colorado has reported 25 and Arizona 17. Hawaii is reporting 7, New Mexico and Nevada have 5 cases and Utah and Wisconsin have 2 each. The cases reported in Wisconsin, however, resulted from exposure to the product in California, according to health officials.

Nearly 60 percent of those sickened are women. The ages in the outbreak range from 2 to 84 and include 6 children under the age of 18. CDC said none of the children had been vaccinated. More than half of those ill required hospitalization.

The outbreak has sparked several large recalls. In early June, Townsend Farms recalled more than 300,000 four pound packages of the frozen berries sold at Costco and then issued another recall of berries sold at Harris Teeter. Last week, Scenic Fruit Company recalled over 60,000 bags of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels because their product, imported from Turkey, has the potential to be contaminated with Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A, a liver disease, can range from mild to severe and can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Symptoms usually occur within 15 to 50 days of exposure and include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.

If a person has been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus within two weeks or less, they may be able to prevent the disease by receiving a vaccine. Consumers who may have eaten recalled product or have Hepatitis A symptoms should consult with their healthcare provider or their local health department.

 

Food Safety News

FDA Urged to Require Allergen Labeling for Sesame Seeds

As many as 500,000 Americans are estimated to be allergic to sesame seeds, but current rules on allergen labeling don’t include a requirement for them.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington, D.C., consumer advocacy organization, is now asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to add sesame seeds to its list of allergens that require clear labeling on the ingredients list.

Specifically, the group has filed a citizens petition asking FDA to mandate labels for foods that contain sesame seeds or were made with machinery that also processes foods that include sesame seeds. Such labels already exist for allergens such as milk, eggs, peanuts and wheat.

For those with an allergy to sesame seeds, accidentally consuming them can trigger “life-threatening anaphylaxis,” CSPI says.

Ingredients that contain sesame seeds are sometimes listed as tahini or gingelly, and those names might not register with some consumers looking to avoid the seeds. Ingredients labeled “natural flavorings” or “spices” also have the potential to include sesame seeds.

In a news release, CSPI highlighted the case of a 10-year-old boy in Virginia who was rushed to the emergency room after eating a meal at a restaurant, despite his parents getting the assurance of the staff before ordering that the meal contained no sesame seeds.

That boy’s father, Brian Heller, launched a petition on Change.org in October asking FDA to treat sesame seeds as a major allergen.

Canada, Australia and the European Union all require the explicit labeling of sesame seeds.

Food Safety News

Plants prepackage beneficial microbes in their seeds

Plants have a symbiotic relationship with certain bacteria. These ‘commensal’ bacteria help the pants extract nutrients and defend against invaders — an important step in preventing pathogens from contaminating fruits and vegetables. Now, scientists have discovered that plants may package their commensal bacteria inside of seeds; thus ensuring that sprouting plants are colonized from the beginning. The researchers, from the University of Notre Dame, presented their findings at the 5th ASM Conference on Beneficial Microbes.

Plants play host to a wide variety of bacteria; the plant microbiome. Just as in humans, the plant microbiome is shaped by the types of bacteria that successfully colonize the plant’s ecosystem. Most of these bacteria are symbiotic, drawing from and providing for the plant in ways such as nitrogen-fixing and leaf-protection. Pathogenic bacteria may also colonize a plant. Pathogens can include viruses and bacteria that damage the plant itself or bacteria like the Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O104:H4. In 2011, Germany, France and the Netherlands experienced an outbreak of E. coli that was ultimately traced to the consumption of contaminated sprouts, which was thought to be caused by feral pigs in the growing area. Such opportunistic contamination is hard to guard against as most growing takes place in open, outdoor spaces with little opportunity for control.

The hypothesis behind this research is that the best way to defend against pathogenic contamination is with a healthy microbiome colonized by bacteria provide protection from invasive pathogens. Just as with babies, early colonization is crucial to establishing a beneficial microbiome. The researchers, led by Dr. Shaun Lee, looked inside sterilized mung beans and were able to isolate a unique strain of Bacillus pumilus that provides the bean with enhanced microbial protection.

“This was a genuine curiosity that my colleague and I had about whether commensal bacteria could be found in various plant sources, including seed supplies” said Dr. Lee. “The fact that we could isolate and grow a bacterium that was packaged inside a seed was quite surprising.”

The researchers first sterilized and tested the outer portion of a sealed, whole seed. When that was determined to be sterile, they sampled and plated the interior of the seeds and placed them in bacterial agar, which they incubated. What they found was the new strain of Bacillus pumilus, a unique, highly motile Gram-positive bacterium capable of colonizing the mung bean plant without causing any harm. Genome sequencing revealed that the isolated B. pumilus contained three unique gene clusters for the production of antimicrobial peptide compounds known as bacteriocins.

Dr. Lee and his colleagues theorize that their findings could have a wide impact, both on our understanding of plants and in creating food-safe antimicrobials. The finding that plant seeds can be pre-colonized may be an important mechanism by which a beneficial plant microbiome is established and sustained. Moreover, the team is now isolating and studying the bacteriocins, which Dr. Lee says “have tremendous potential.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Microbiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Tozer Seeds announces Kalettes marketing partners

Tozer Seeds announces Kalettes marketing partners

Tozer Seeds announced that it has entered into exclusive marketing agreements with six companies to grow and market Kalettes™, the kale and brussels sprouts hybrid. The companies who have entered into the marketing agreement with Tozer for Kalettes are: 4Earth Farms, Classic Salads, Mann Packing, Ocean Mist Farms, Southern Specialties and WP Rawl.  As part of the agreement, Kalettes seeds will be sold by Johnny’s Select Seeds to small farmers and home growers.

Tozer Seeds made the decision to enter into this agreement with a select group of companies to market under the Kalettes brand to create a consistent name and brand identity for the kale and brussels sprouts hybrid, which would allow consumers to easily recognize this new vegetable.  Tozer and these companies have committed to supporting the Kalettes brand though joint public relations efforts, consumer and trade advertising and by providing recipes, cooking tips and other content to consumers through the website, www.Kalettes.com, and their social media channels. 

Additionally, the companies who are growing as part of the Kalettes brand are subject to strict product specifications and quality controls. Product specifications include sizing, colour and condition which will ensure that consumers receive consistent top quality product. Tozer Seeds has applied for a PLU code under the generic name “kale sprouts”, which will be available to any grower of the kale and brussels sprouts hybrid.

“Our collective goal is to successfully launch Kalettes in the retail and food service channels in the U.S. and Canada and build a strong awareness among consumers.  By working together, the joint marketing efforts of Tozer and these companies will be able to reach the consumer more effectively,” stated Kraig Kuykendall, sales manager of Tozer Seeds America. “We have been very pleased with the incredible response to Kalettes and predict it will be very successful.”

Kalettes are the product of more than a decade of research by Tozer Seeds, the largest family-owned vegetable breeding company in England.  The kale and brussels sprout hybrid offers a fresh fusion of sweet and nutty, combining the best traits of each of its parent vegetables.  Kalettes are not genetically modified and were developed by cross-pollinating brussels sprouts with kale through traditional methods.  

Kalettes are now available in very limited quantities and distribution will continue to increase throughout the fall and winter as production increases.  Kalettes will be available to both retailers and food service distributors directly through the companies. For contact information please visit www.kalettes.com/trade-information.  

For more information on Kalettes, including recipes, visit www.kalettes.com, and for updates on availability like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.  

Publication date: 8/22/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world’s most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.

For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species’ pollination mode, growth habitat and population size.

A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

First, collectors must choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Sampling widely can capture up to nearly 200 percent more rare genes than restricted sampling. In addition, in most situations, collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation. The study also showed that for many species, collecting more than eight to ten seeds per plant leads to high overlap in genetic diversity and would thus be an excess of effort.

Increasing concerns over agriculture and food security as well as an increasing recognition of how fast biodiversity is disappearing has prompted seed banks to ramp up their collections. By the same token, botanic gardens that were once more focused on showcasing plants are now increasingly having a conservation mission too, according to the study’s lead author Sean Hoban, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

“Our approach can be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections, allowing us to preserve more diversity of the world’s plants. These collections could benefit future ecosystem restoration projects as well as improve agricultural and forestry efforts,” Hoban said.

Hoban and his colleagues are now working on ways to custom-tailor seed collections to particular species’ dispersal, mating system and biology.

The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world’s most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.

For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species’ pollination mode, growth habitat and population size.

A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

First, collectors must choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Sampling widely can capture up to nearly 200 percent more rare genes than restricted sampling. In addition, in most situations, collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation. The study also showed that for many species, collecting more than eight to ten seeds per plant leads to high overlap in genetic diversity and would thus be an excess of effort.

Increasing concerns over agriculture and food security as well as an increasing recognition of how fast biodiversity is disappearing has prompted seed banks to ramp up their collections. By the same token, botanic gardens that were once more focused on showcasing plants are now increasingly having a conservation mission too, according to the study’s lead author Sean Hoban, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

“Our approach can be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections, allowing us to preserve more diversity of the world’s plants. These collections could benefit future ecosystem restoration projects as well as improve agricultural and forestry efforts,” Hoban said.

Hoban and his colleagues are now working on ways to custom-tailor seed collections to particular species’ dispersal, mating system and biology.

The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world’s most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.

For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species’ pollination mode, growth habitat and population size.

A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

First, collectors must choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Sampling widely can capture up to nearly 200 percent more rare genes than restricted sampling. In addition, in most situations, collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation. The study also showed that for many species, collecting more than eight to ten seeds per plant leads to high overlap in genetic diversity and would thus be an excess of effort.

Increasing concerns over agriculture and food security as well as an increasing recognition of how fast biodiversity is disappearing has prompted seed banks to ramp up their collections. By the same token, botanic gardens that were once more focused on showcasing plants are now increasingly having a conservation mission too, according to the study’s lead author Sean Hoban, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

“Our approach can be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections, allowing us to preserve more diversity of the world’s plants. These collections could benefit future ecosystem restoration projects as well as improve agricultural and forestry efforts,” Hoban said.

Hoban and his colleagues are now working on ways to custom-tailor seed collections to particular species’ dispersal, mating system and biology.

The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world’s most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.

For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species’ pollination mode, growth habitat and population size.

A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

First, collectors must choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Sampling widely can capture up to nearly 200 percent more rare genes than restricted sampling. In addition, in most situations, collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation. The study also showed that for many species, collecting more than eight to ten seeds per plant leads to high overlap in genetic diversity and would thus be an excess of effort.

Increasing concerns over agriculture and food security as well as an increasing recognition of how fast biodiversity is disappearing has prompted seed banks to ramp up their collections. By the same token, botanic gardens that were once more focused on showcasing plants are now increasingly having a conservation mission too, according to the study’s lead author Sean Hoban, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

“Our approach can be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections, allowing us to preserve more diversity of the world’s plants. These collections could benefit future ecosystem restoration projects as well as improve agricultural and forestry efforts,” Hoban said.

Hoban and his colleagues are now working on ways to custom-tailor seed collections to particular species’ dispersal, mating system and biology.

The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world’s most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.

For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species’ pollination mode, growth habitat and population size.

A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

First, collectors must choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Sampling widely can capture up to nearly 200 percent more rare genes than restricted sampling. In addition, in most situations, collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation. The study also showed that for many species, collecting more than eight to ten seeds per plant leads to high overlap in genetic diversity and would thus be an excess of effort.

Increasing concerns over agriculture and food security as well as an increasing recognition of how fast biodiversity is disappearing has prompted seed banks to ramp up their collections. By the same token, botanic gardens that were once more focused on showcasing plants are now increasingly having a conservation mission too, according to the study’s lead author Sean Hoban, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

“Our approach can be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections, allowing us to preserve more diversity of the world’s plants. These collections could benefit future ecosystem restoration projects as well as improve agricultural and forestry efforts,” Hoban said.

Hoban and his colleagues are now working on ways to custom-tailor seed collections to particular species’ dispersal, mating system and biology.

The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world’s most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.

For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species’ pollination mode, growth habitat and population size.

A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

First, collectors must choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Sampling widely can capture up to nearly 200 percent more rare genes than restricted sampling. In addition, in most situations, collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation. The study also showed that for many species, collecting more than eight to ten seeds per plant leads to high overlap in genetic diversity and would thus be an excess of effort.

Increasing concerns over agriculture and food security as well as an increasing recognition of how fast biodiversity is disappearing has prompted seed banks to ramp up their collections. By the same token, botanic gardens that were once more focused on showcasing plants are now increasingly having a conservation mission too, according to the study’s lead author Sean Hoban, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

“Our approach can be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections, allowing us to preserve more diversity of the world’s plants. These collections could benefit future ecosystem restoration projects as well as improve agricultural and forestry efforts,” Hoban said.

Hoban and his colleagues are now working on ways to custom-tailor seed collections to particular species’ dispersal, mating system and biology.

The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Chia Seeds: 65 Salmonella Infections, Expanding Recall

Chia seeds are an increasingly popular ingredient in the health food world. The Dr. Oz Show and various health magazines have been highlighting them, and recipes with this “superfood” have been popping up all over Pinterest and BuzzFeed.

But before you go adding chia powder to your morning smoothie, check to be sure it isn’t on the list of recalled products that might be contaminated with Salmonella.

At least 65 Salmonella infections in the U.S. and Canada have been linked to such products since May.

The 21 cases in the U.S. are in people aged 1 to 81 across 12 states. Among 15 ill persons with available information, two report being hospitalized — not an unusual rate for standard infections. No deaths have been reported to date.

The outbreak strains include Newport, Hartford and Oranienburg. The 44 cases reported across four Canadian provinces include these, as well as the Saintpaul strain. Six of the Canadian victims have been hospitalized.

Antimicrobial resistance levels are unclear as test results are still pending.

“This is the first time that chia seeds have been identified as a food that transmits Salmonella,” said Dr. Laura Gieraltowski, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and one of the lead investigators on the outbreak.

The list of recalled products has been expanding since the first one issued by Navitas Naturals on May 28. Two other U.S. companies have since recalled their chia powder products, and Navitas has expanded its recall to include a broader date range.

“The traceback investigation is still ongoing, but [the U.S. Food and Drug Administration] did trace back chia products reported by the ill people that did show that it came from a particular farm,” Gieraltowski said.

Eight brands in Canada have announced their own recalls of seeds, powders, trail mix, and fruit and nut bars.

“I don’t think it was surprising that it’s in a lot of other products, but it’s definitely worrisome,” Gieraltowski said. Most of the people CDC officials talked to have reported putting chia powder in their smoothies, but it can be a bit of a “stealthy” ingredient if people don’t realize it was an ingredient in their smoothie mix or other food.

So folks at CDC are concerned that information about the recall isn’t getting out. Because chia seeds have a long shelf-life, it’s possible that people are still eating potentially contaminated product.

“My own family members — two of which use chia seeds — had no idea about the recall,” Gieraltowski noted.

Chia products are usually eaten raw, so there’s not much consumers can do to minimize their risk. CDC, FDA, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are telling consumers not to eat the recalled foods. Instead, they’re advised to throw them out or return them to the place of purchase for a refund.

While first investigating the cluster of Salmonella Newport illnesses identified in PulseNet, Gieraltowsk said the initial signals pointed to “health food.” Vegan, vegetarian and dairy-free diets were being reported by victims.

Investigators decided to do open-ended interviews rather than a longer standardized questionnaire in which a health food product or supplement was unlikely to be covered.

When the same brand of chia powder came up in the first three interviews, “We knew that we had it from there,” Gieraltowski said.

After starting their investigation, CDC noticed similar cases in Canada via PulseNet and reached out to their counterparts up north. When the Canadians looked into their cases, they also found the chia product commonality.

“It was a really great joint investigation with our international partners as well,” Gieraltowsk said.

The agencies are still trying to determine the relationship between the actual chia seeds and the powder.

Chia powder is made by sprouting the seeds and then grinding up the sprouts. Since sprouts are a common vehicle for pathogens, Gieraltowski said this process may be amplifying the contamination of the seeds.

Food Safety News

Chia Seeds: 65 Salmonella Infections, Expanding Recall

Chia seeds are an increasingly popular ingredient in the health food world. The Dr. Oz Show and various health magazines have been highlighting them, and recipes with this “superfood” have been popping up all over Pinterest and BuzzFeed.

But before you go adding chia powder to your morning smoothie, check to be sure it isn’t on the list of recalled products that might be contaminated with Salmonella.

At least 65 Salmonella infections in the U.S. and Canada have been linked to such products since May.

The 21 cases in the U.S. are in people aged 1 to 81 across 12 states. Among 15 ill persons with available information, two report being hospitalized — not an unusual rate for standard infections. No deaths have been reported to date.

The outbreak strains include Newport, Hartford and Oranienburg. The 44 cases reported across four Canadian provinces include these, as well as the Saintpaul strain. Six of the Canadian victims have been hospitalized.

Antimicrobial resistance levels are unclear as test results are still pending.

“This is the first time that chia seeds have been identified as a food that transmits Salmonella,” said Dr. Laura Gieraltowski, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and one of the lead investigators on the outbreak.

The list of recalled products has been expanding since the first one issued by Navitas Naturals on May 28. Two other U.S. companies have since recalled their chia powder products, and Navitas has expanded its recall to include a broader date range.

“The traceback investigation is still ongoing, but [the U.S. Food and Drug Administration] did trace back chia products reported by the ill people that did show that it came from a particular farm,” Gieraltowski said.

Eight brands in Canada have announced their own recalls of seeds, powders, trail mix, and fruit and nut bars.

“I don’t think it was surprising that it’s in a lot of other products, but it’s definitely worrisome,” Gieraltowski said. Most of the people CDC officials talked to have reported putting chia powder in their smoothies, but it can be a bit of a “stealthy” ingredient if people don’t realize it was an ingredient in their smoothie mix or other food.

So folks at CDC are concerned that information about the recall isn’t getting out. Because chia seeds have a long shelf-life, it’s possible that people are still eating potentially contaminated product.

“My own family members — two of which use chia seeds — had no idea about the recall,” Gieraltowski noted.

Chia products are usually eaten raw, so there’s not much consumers can do to minimize their risk. CDC, FDA, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are telling consumers not to eat the recalled foods. Instead, they’re advised to throw them out or return them to the place of purchase for a refund.

While first investigating the cluster of Salmonella Newport illnesses identified in PulseNet, Gieraltowsk said the initial signals pointed to “health food.” Vegan, vegetarian and dairy-free diets were being reported by victims.

Investigators decided to do open-ended interviews rather than a longer standardized questionnaire in which a health food product or supplement was unlikely to be covered.

When the same brand of chia powder came up in the first three interviews, “We knew that we had it from there,” Gieraltowski said.

After starting their investigation, CDC noticed similar cases in Canada via PulseNet and reached out to their counterparts up north. When the Canadians looked into their cases, they also found the chia product commonality.

“It was a really great joint investigation with our international partners as well,” Gieraltowsk said.

The agencies are still trying to determine the relationship between the actual chia seeds and the powder.

Chia powder is made by sprouting the seeds and then grinding up the sprouts. Since sprouts are a common vehicle for pathogens, Gieraltowski said this process may be amplifying the contamination of the seeds.

Food Safety News

Superfood chia seeds may be potential natural ingredient in food product development

Date:

May 21, 2014

Source:

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)

Summary:

The consumer demand for natural, healthy and non-animal source food ingredients are on the rise. A new study shows that chia seeds when placed in water produce a gel that could be potentially be applied in food product development. The results of the study indicate that chia gel can be easily extracted and have great potential in food product development as a thickener and emulsifier, as well as a stabilizer in frozen foods.

The consumer demand for natural, healthy and non-animal source food ingredients are on the rise. A new study from the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), shows that chia seeds when placed in water produce a gel that could be potentially be applied in food product development. The results of the study indicate that chia gel can be easily extracted and have great potential in food product development as a thickener and emulsifier, as well as a stabilizer in frozen foods.

Chia is one of the oldest crops cultivated for centuries by the Aztec tribes in Mexico and is high in dietary fiber, protein, and Omega-3 fatty acids. It also has the highest α-linoleic acid (an Omega-3 fatty acid) content of any known vegetable source.

The researchers found that chia gel has good water binding capacity and oil holding capacity, viscosity, emulsion activity and freeze-thaw ability that is comparable to guar gum and gelatine, two common current food ingredients used in baked goods and sauces.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ranil Coorey, Audrey Tjoe, Vijay Jayasena. Gelling Properties of Chia Seed and Flour. Journal of Food Science, 2014; 79 (5): E859 DOI: 10.1111/1750-3841.12444

Cite This Page:

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). “Superfood chia seeds may be potential natural ingredient in food product development.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521162725.htm>.

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). (2014, May 21). Superfood chia seeds may be potential natural ingredient in food product development. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521162725.htm

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). “Superfood chia seeds may be potential natural ingredient in food product development.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521162725.htm (accessed May 24, 2014).

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

A GMO Conundrum: Organic Mutagenic/Cell Fusion Hybrid Seeds are Genetically Engineered

It is spring planting time for farms, and, if hybrid seeds are being planted, chances are some might be genetically engineered (GE) and technically genetically modified organisms (GMOs), according to a growing movement in organic agriculture.

High Mowing Organic Seeds, an organic seed company based in Wolcott, VT, bans the sale of hybrid seeds produced by a commonly used industry method called cell fusion to manipulate plant DNA — because the seeds are viewed as GMOs.

“We do not support or sell cisgenic (within the same plant family) CMS cell fusion seeds as we believe the process is the same as GMO,” says Tom Furber, general manager of the company.

Other organic seed companies which have similarly adopted a policy of banning cell fusion-created F1 hybrid seeds, because company owners view the process as genetic engineering, are challenging the current USDA National Organic Program which permits cisgenic cell fusion hybrid seed in organic production.

“We’ve been committed to non-GMO and organic since our inception and always will be. We need to educate the market regardless of a USDA classification,” Furber says.

In organic farming, transgenic (between different biological families) GE is banned, but cisgenic (within the same species family) GE used in the cell fusion process is permitted under USDA organic regulations.

By international organic certification standards, cell fusion is classified as genetic engineering, but these standards established by The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) are being ignored by the United States, Europe and other countries.

In April 2014, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), representing more than 850,000 members, including several thousand businesses in the natural foods and organic marketplace, launched a consumer campaign to ban cell fusion mutagenesis in the USDA NOP organic production standards.

“Like genetic engineering, mutagenesis can cause dramatic shifts in genetically determined traits, producing unknown toxins or allergens. ‘Wheat Belly’ author Dr. William Davis blames mutagenesis, which is used to produce modern wheat — including organically grown wheat — for increases in wheat allergies and intolerances,” states the OCA.

Cisgenic cell fusion is a biotechnical process of mutagenesis whereby the nucleus is removed from a plant cell and replaced with a nucleus from a different plant within the same botanical family. Chemicals and radiation are used in the process to created a hybrid plant with mixed genetics containing the mitochondrial and chloroplast DNA from one cell and the nuclear DNA from a different one.

Cell fusion is also called protoplast or somantic fusion and can involve a mutant gene with the purpose of creating cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS), which allows classified F1 hybrids to avoid inbreeding. It also prevents the seed from recreating the variety because it results in sterile or no pollen.

While natural CMS plant lines do occur, it is rare, so cell fusion is used to transfer a single wild mutant CMS gene on a mass scale from one species to another cisgenically — as in a radish to cabbage or sunflower to chicory.

“Cell-fusion is a controversial topic and IFOAM would like to ban it from organics completely, as they consider it a form of GM. But many of us in the organic community know that that would seriously compromise the ability of organic farmers to grow commercial crops of several brassicas,” says John Navazio, senior scientist with the Organic Seed Alliance and a Washington State University Extension Specialist in Organic Seed.

“Several of the large production research seed companies that produce organic seed are not talking when asked which of their hybrids are produced using cell fusion-mediated CMS. By the way, there is also ‘naturally occurring CMS,’ which we have used in hybrid carrots, onions, and beets for many years and SHOULD NOT be included in this debate,” Navazio says.

Not all F1 hybrids are developed using CMS GE cell fusion.

In the world of seed breeding, there are open-pollinated, hybrid, heirloom, transgenic GMOs and cisgenic GE mutagenic seeds.

Open-Pollinated (OP) varieties, grown in isolation from cross-pollinating with different same species, are designed to produce seed offspring very similar to the original parent population. OP seeds will grow “true to type” generation after generation.

Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated produced and handed down by seed savers for at least 60 years.

Hybrids in general are the first generation of offspring plants created by a cross of two genetically different parent varieties, usually from the same species. Seeds from the second generation will not grow “true to type,” so the buyer has to return for each planting of that crop.

Naturally occurring hybridization in the wild involves the crossing of compatible varieties, and, since the beginning of agriculture, plant breeders have experimented with this process to control the outcome.

A modern natural hybridization method of controlled crossing to create F1 seed was devised by Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel in the mid-19th century and is used by plant breeders to grow two parent lines in the field each year, designate the male and female parents, carry out pollination under controlled conditions — such as hand-pollination under row cover — and then harvest seed from the females.

High Mowing Organic Seeds uses a natural method with no laboratory steps called self-incompatibility (SI).

Overall, plant breeders prefer F1 hybrid seed because it’s faster and easier than breeding new open-pollinated seeds, and they can cull the bad traits from the parents while stacking their good traits (e.g., disease resistance) in the F1 offspring.

Seed companies also like F1 hybrids because the second generation will not grow “true to type,” so the F1 hybrid buyer has to buy new seeds for each planting. Another reason big, and, more recently, smaller seed companies, prefer the hybrid process is because it gives them proprietary ownership of each new F1 variety.

Cell fusion F1 hybrid seeds were first developed with induced mutagenesis in the early 20th century to process disease resistance and growing features to increase yields. Since the 1950s, cell fusion hybrid techniques have evolved from a random chemical/electrical/radiation blending to a site-direct mutagenesis process targeting specific genes with marker-assisted breeding (e.g., zinc fingers).

Targeted mutation, known as genome editing, are tools which use complex protein structures called zinc fingers or meganucleases and can also selectively insert or silence genes in crop species, shortening years off development time.

According to a Nov. 21, 2013, news report by Business Week, industry experts say that, over the past five years, breeding and biotechnology have improved on prior haphazard methods of cell fusion mutagenesis by using molecular markers and sequenced genomes of crops to site-direct crossbreeding, making conventional breeding more like GE. The article quotes Paul Schickler, president of DuPont’s Pioneer seed unit, as saying, “There is not a black line between biotechnology and nonbiotechnology, it’s a continuum.”

According to company filings in Canada, BASF, the world’s biggest chemical company, developed its Clearfield wheat and other crops through chemical mutagenesis, which alters the crops’ DNA by dousing seeds with chemicals such as ethyl methanesulfonate and sodium azide, as reported by Bloomberg News on Nov. 13, 2013.

“This has been a technique used for many decades without issue, without concern,” Jonathan Bryant, a BASF vice president, was quoted as saying.

BASF enlists the help of 40 seed companies, including DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. in the U.S. and Switzerland’s Syngenta AG, to sell Clearfield wheat, rice, lentils, sunflowers and canola crops in markets that reject GMOs without regulatory review, according to the same Bloomberg story.

For many environmental and organic consumer groups, they see a continuum of GE crops hiding as substantially equivalent to “traditional” and therefore natural methods of seed production. These groups are concerned the unregulated grey area of GE cell fusion and site-directed mutagenesis is being used by BASF and the major agri-biotech companies to sidestep GMO labeling of their seed products.

In the 1990s, Monsanto lobbied USDA to agree that GMOs are substantially equivalent to natural forming plants.

The majority of the world’s food seeds are owned by six companies: Monsanto, Bayer, Sygenta, BASF, DuPont and Dow. The top three (Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta) account for 47 percent of the worldwide proprietary seed market. These firms are expanding their operations by buying other seed companies and controlling the pricing and use of seeds through proprietary patents.

In 2005, Monsanto became the world’s largest seed and GMO company with its purchase of Seminis, which was the largest developer, grower and marketer of fruit and vegetable seed. Seminis’ 3,500 seed varieties are sold to farm/garden seed companies globally.

Monsanto’s newly developed proprietary lines of fruits and vegetables currently sold in supermarkets use a technique called genetic marking. A January 2014 story in Wired magazine cites Monsanto’s genetic marking technique with potentially producing a new method for organic seed production.

According to the article, after mapping targeted genes, researchers identify and crossbreed plants with traits they like without GE and then run millions of samples from the hybrid through a machine that can read more than 200,000 samples per week and map all the genes in a particular region of the plant’s chromosomes.

Monsanto’s crossbreeding technique also uses a seed chipper to enable breeders to scan genetic variations to predict inheritance patterns without having to go through multiple planting trials to figure out if they’ll result in plants with the desired traits. Patented crops created with this method of gene stacking with multiple characteristics don’t require government safety testing because they’re viewed as natural by FDA.

“We do know that Monsanto/Seminis are getting into the ‘organic’ seed line. Which is precisely why OSA advises caution at this point in demanding that farmers use only organic seed — if the requirement to use absolutely only organic seed were made in stone right now, we would find a narrowing of the organic seed line, and a virtual takeover of the organic seed industry by the big boys,” says Liana Hoodes, director of the National Organic Coalition and National Organic Action Plan.

“Organic has a long way to go to clarify the GE (Excluded Methods) definition, and if the USDA doesn’t get working with the true organic seed industry, we will indeed see organic seed production consolidated into the big GE guys (Monsanto/Seminis and more), ” she adds.

The classification of conventional and organic cisgenic cell fusion CMS seeds as GMOs by High Mowing Organic Seeds and other seed companies joins a European movement banning such seeds from organic production.

European and USDA agricultural and food safety government bodies only identify transgenic (between different species) cell fusion hybrid seeds as GE and GMOs, excluding cisgenic cell fusion as a “traditional method” and not genetic engineering/modification.

In Germany (Europe’s largest organic consumer) and France, organic agricultural organizations are endorsing IFOAM’s classification of laboratory cell fusion techniques used in the production of hybrid seeds as genetic engineering (GE).

“In the private organic farming sector as outlined in the IFAOM standards, a process-oriented approach prevails; therefore, the use of genetic engineering lab techniques is not in compliance with principles of organic farming,” says Klaus-Peter Wilbois, head of the agriculture division at the German office of The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL).

Politically in Europe and the U.S., the debate of whether the process of using cell fusion in seed production is GE comes down to looking at the issue in a product-oriented or process-oriented perspective.

Legally, current USDA and EU directives are product-oriented, and, if cell fusion is used within the same botanical family, it is not GE and those seeds are not judged to be GMOs.

“For instance, cell fusion techniques which are used to convey cytoplasmatic male sterility (CMS) in cabbage or chicory crops to produce hybrids are regarded as genetic engineering in the organic sector but would not lead to a GMO in a legal sense, since the crops (Japanese radish as CMS donator) belongs to the same brassica family as cabbages like cauliflower or broccoli. The same is true for sunflower and chicory (both asteraceae),” Wilbois says.

The organic farming industry and their organizations are conflicted and struggling with the conundrum that organic production relies on CMS F1 hybrid seeds. These hybrids are developed with unregulated biotechnological DNA mutagenic techniques, which might be non-GMO in the legal framework, but are process as viewed against the organic farming background and principles banning the use of GE.

In the IFOAM, the product/process argument has come to one conclusion: Cisgenic cell fusion in seed production is GE and should be banned.

IFOAM, comprising 800 affiliates in 118 countries, mandates all GE seeds be banned from organic production (both transgenic and cisgenic) and cited the process of cell fusion as GE. This ruling defines seeds produced with cell fusion as a genetically engineered/modified organism, a classification that should technically ban it from EU and USDA NOP organic production.

The IFOAM GE cell fusion ban for hybrid seed production has broad international implications for all farming operations which use the biotech technique of mutating DNA to make hybrid seeds in both conventional and organic crop production — particularly in countries where governments mandate the labeling of GE organisms.

In more than 64 countries, the labeling of GMO seeds made with GE is government-mandated, but that is only for transgenic GE using DNA technology to insert genes from unrelated species.

Currently, GE cell fusion F1 hybrid seeds are only privately banned in European organic production (mostly German), but not under government EU directives for GMOs. There are no CMS hybrid seed safety or disclosure requirements for Europe or the U.S., but lists of acceptable F1 hybrids are being disclosed to the public by German organic farming organizations.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has ruled that cisgenic cell fusion is excluded from GE classification as it is based on traditional methods.

EFSA’s role is to provide independent scientific advice on matters linked to food and feed safety in Europe. EFSA’s risk assessments provide risk managers (e.g., European Commission, European Parliament and Member States) with scientific advice to help them in legislative or regulatory decisions required to ensure European food is safe for consumers.

“For your information, at the time of developing the legislative framework for GMOs in the EU, regulators specifically excluded from this category techniques/methods of genetic modification as long as they do not involve the use of recombinant DNA (see Annex IB of Directive 2001/18/EC, here).

“One of these techniques is mutagenesis. This means that a new organism/crop/variety obtained through mutagenesis, giving that it does not involve the use of recombinant DNA, is not considered a GMO (legally speaking in the EU) and hence is not subject to the entire approval process (e.g., pre-marketing risk assessment) laid down in EU legislation,” says Sylvie Mestdagh, a spokeswoman for EFSA’s GMO unit.

In 2013, the USDA NOP ruled similarly: “However, the NOP further concludes that cell fusion (including protoplast fusion) is not considered an excluded method when the donor cells/protoplasts fall within the same taxonomic plant family, and when donor or recipient organisms are not derived using techniques of recombinant DNA technology.”

How is it that a cisgenic cell fusion process using the DNA of a sterile male plant (CMS) resulting in a F1 hybrid is not a genetically modifying process?

“All I can tell you is that the USDA does not consider this to be a GM process when it is done within the same family,” says Don Franczyk, spokesman for Baystate Organic Certifiers, a USDA certification body. “You cannot do the same procedure transgenically. It is only allowed within the family and considered hybridization rather than genetic modification,” he said.

Overall, the debate over whether cell fusion and mutagenesis in seed production are GE has caused confusion and conflicting answers in the organic community.

USDA’s National Organic Program and its European counterpart, EFSA, cite the practices as “traditional” and excluded from organic standards, but IFOAM identifies these same laboratory processes as DNA GE and bans them from organic production.

“IFOAM is supposed to be the global clearinghouse for organic rules and the NOP was closely modeled on its standards. As such, the recent directive on cell fusion by NOP is at odds with IFOAM, and, I think, causing a certain degree of consternation,” says James R. Myers, Baggett Frazier Professor of Vegetable Breeding and Genetics in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University.

“My overall feeling is that there are long-term goals that the organic community should strive for, but it may take time to reach those goals and, in the meantime, the standards may need to be relaxed in certain areas so as not to cause extreme hardship to the organic community. This has been true for the exemption to the requirement for the use of certified organic seed, which allows untreated conventional seed to be used when there is no equivalent variety,” Myers says.

Conflicting and confusing opinions among respected organic seed breeders on cisgenic mutagenesis and cell fusion as genetic engineering has also added to the GE consternation.

“Induced mutagenesis is not GM, but it is a technique that directly interferes at DNA level and that is why it does not comply to the principles of organics as we do not want to accept breeding techniques that interfere at direct DNA level such as GM, or cell fusion (by kicking out the nucleus) or protoplast fusion or mutatgenesis,” says Edith Lammerts van Bueren, senior researcher in plant breeding at the The Louis Bolk Institute in Driebergen, Netherlands.

“Induced mutations are knockouts of functioning genes, and one is not likely to run into a dangerous situation when a gene loses function and stops making a protein,” adds Myers.

Frank Morton, an organic plant breeder/seed grower and founder of Wild Garden Seed in Oregon, opposes any use of CMS hybrids in organic production.

“CMS hybrids depend upon patented techniques and patented germplasm. The process creates hybrids that produce offspring that have sterile pollen or none at all, and this trait is persistent and irreversible, making the genetics unavailable to anyone besides the patent holder. The patent holders ARE the GMO industry, so only that industry can make use of this breeding technique. If they aren’t GMOs, they sure have all the sociopathic traits of GMOs,” Morton says.

Farmers wanting to avoid GE seed and protect their crop’s organic integrity have no way of knowing if their seeds are cisgenically processed GMOs without a government cisgenic GE labeling requirement.

Without a government cisgenic GE labeling requirement or a ban on cell fusion and biotechnological mutagenesis, there is no way of knowing if seeds and their crops are cisgenically created GMOs — unless there is a CMS marker.

German genetic identification companies working in coordination with the private organic sector have developed a testing procedure to identify GE CMS seeds and are posting lists of CMS vegetable hybrids to be avoided.

Organic farmers and food markets in Germany wanting to avoid genetically engineered CMS cell fusion seed and their crops have recently been weeding out identified GE CMS vegetables from their inventories, according to European news reports.

John Navasio believes for now that both a ban on mutagenesis and the continued use of cell fusion in organic seed production are a dead end.

“Without high-quality commercial alternatives in the form of organically bred and developed crop varieties, it will be very difficult for the NOSB of the USDA or even IFOAM in Europe to ban this technology that crept into organics while everyone was taking a nap and relying on the big boys in the seed industry to take care of our seed needs,” he says.

Open-pollinating (OP) crops are a natural alternative to the sterile-pollen CMS hybrid conundrum, according to Navasio.

“The major reason we do not have commercially acceptable OPs in many crops is because there are very few breeders working on OPs,” he says. “The structure of the seed industry relies on hybrids — we are training a new generation of seed growers and seed companies in hopes of changing this to some degree.”

If the campaign to ban GE seeds in organic production, currently being promoted by OCA and organic seed breeders (High Mowing Seeds, Wild Garden Seed, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, Adaptive Seeds, etc.), converges with state GMO-labeling campaigns, there is going to be a flurry in the open-pollinating and natural hybrid seed market.

Food Safety News

New visual identity for Nunhems as Bayer CropScience Vegetable Seeds

Bayer CropScience’s vegetable seed business, Nunhems, will change its visual identity and be marketed under the “Bayer CropScience” brand starting in April 2014. The corresponding business unit will be called Bayer CropScience Vegetable Seeds. This specialized business unit will be responsible for all vegetable seeds activities worldwide, from research to after-sales.nunhm

The new visual identity for the “Nunhems” brand will be aligned with Bayer CropScience seeds and crop protection product brands. As a result, all relevant materials, including packaging, advertisements, brochures and Internet presences have been redesigned and will be implemented gradually from April 1 onwards.

“We will keep Nunhems as our product brand, paying tribute to the great recognition this name enjoys within our market,” Joachim Schneider, head of Vegetable Seeds, said in a press release. “But what really matters for our customers — many of whom already know that we are one company — is that we will continue to be the Global Specialist. We will continue to deliver to them high-quality and innovative products, customized to meet their needs. We will continue to work together seamlessly in our crop teams to unearth and share information and provide services that add value to their business.”

The new visual identity for the “Nunhems” brand reflects the overall company strategy of Bayer to significantly increase the value of its portfolio in fruit and vegetables.

“We are committed to enhancing world food security,” Frank Terhorst, head of seeds at Bayer CropScience, said in the press release. “To achieve this, we focus on offering crop solutions spanning seeds, chemical and biological crop protection, and extensive service and support programs. In this context, Bayer CropScience Vegetable Seeds offers a valuable contribution to our portfolio with its unique specialism and direct customer interaction.”

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