- Jeffrey's Take: Australia may endanger the world's ecosystem this week - Jeffrey Smith
Hi, this is Jeffrey Smith and this is news and commentary. Today we’re talking about Australia, and how a coming vote on the 13th of November may endanger the world’s ecosystem. Now, shame on you Australia. You should know better.
I’m going to read from the first opening pages of my conclusion in the book Genetic Roulette, “On Christmas day 1859, the Victoria Acclimatization Society released 24 rabbits into the Australian countryside so that settlers could hunt for them for sport and feel more at home. The rabbits multiplied to well over 200 million, spreading out over 4 million square kilometers. That Christmas present now costs Australian agriculture about $600 million per year. “
It actually costs more than the $600 million. There’s obviously no natural predator for these rabbits and they, of course, multiply like rabbits. I believe that they released a virus to kill the rabbits and it knocked over 99% of the rabbits. It’s interesting that I’m told, the satellite photo changed from brown to green after that, so it’s actually destroying the whole ecosystem there. Of course, there was a small percentage of rabbits that survived the virus and then they multiplied like rabbits again and again. There are hundreds and millions.
So, what do we know about what Australia is about to do? This is very interesting. On October 8th, Australia’s Office of Gene Technology Regulator passed a new amendment that allowed gene-edited animals, plants, and microbes to no longer be subject to safety assessment or traceability requirements. In other words, if you wanted to release a genetically engineered gene-edited bacteria, or virus, or animal, or plant, go ahead. The government has nothing to do with it.
However, on November 13th, the Australian Senate will vote on whether to, basically disallow that new amendment. Hopefully, they will. This is such an absolutely drastic situation. No other country, at this point, is deregulating gene-editing to the extent that Australia is. Although others may be not far behind especially if Australia sets a precedent.
Now, experts in the world say that this is absolutely a sham. Particularly, just released was a European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility answer. They released a statement saying, “The concept that the Office of Gene Technology Regulator – that the gene-edited organisms ‘present no different risk than organisms carrying natural genetic changes’ is wrong.” They use the word untenable, but it’s completely wrong. The answer statement says, “We cannot leave public and environmental safety to the expectations or assumptions of those who alter the genetics of living things.”
Now, I met with this Office of Gene Technology Regulator, and they were outrageous. They had outrageous behaviors and outrageous assumptions. Totally nonscientific, and they were also extremely rude. I was actually connecting with them from the offices of their counterpart in New Zealand. The people in New Zealand were obviously embarrassed by the folks in Australia and their behavior.
For example, the woman whom I was speaking said, “We don’t need any tests of GMOs on animal studies.” I said, “Why?” She said, “Because sometimes animal studies don’t find a particular problem.” I said, “Yeah, but sometimes they do, and sometimes they’ll find problems that are not found in your simple, superficial, evaluation of the composition of GMOs.” There’s plenty of examples where that’s the case – that only animal feeding studies show problems, but because they sometimes don’t find it, that was their reason for not requiring it. Just crazy.
I also mentioned that there was evidence in India, about genetically engineered cotton. That people were getting itching reactions to it and animals that ate the cotton plants after harvest were dying in large numbers. The response was, “Well, it’s not our country.”
It was absolutely – they would not send a team to look at it. They would not evaluate it, even though they were considering approving the same crops. I actually spoke to 3-4 different groups in Australia so I’m giving you a compilation of what several of them said. Maybe it wasn’t the Gene Technology Regulator, maybe it was when I met with the head of their FDA, etc.
It was simply stunning, how they were willing to turn a blind eye and that is absolutely clear here. Because right now we know that gene editing can result in numerous – and this is a quote from the answer document, “numerous unexpected, unpredictable, and undesirable outcomes, even at the intended gene-editing site.” They discuss large deletions and rearrangements of the DNA.
What’s interesting is, that they talk about gene editing as precise -that it tries to cut at a precise location. It cuts the DNA and then the cellular organisms within the cell reattach the DNA. What happens is, a lot of these undesirable genetic mutations, like the large deletions and rearrangements, happen as a result of the reconnecting. Reconnecting is the problem. That’s something that is entirely outside the control of genetic engineers.
For example, there were cattle that were engineered by gene editing to be hornless. They wanted to stuff more cattle into tighter spaces, so they edited – they cut out a gene that was associated with creating the horns. The makers of those hornless cattle went public saying, “We have all the scientific data that proves that there are no off-target effects, meaning no side effects.” This was the example that they used to say that we should have absolutely no regulation whatsoever when we want to release gene-edited animals. It should just be up to the breeder and it should not be a government issue.
Well the FDA reviewed the sequence of the DNA of these hornless cattle fairly recently and published their findings that when the double-stranded DNA rejoined, it grabbed up some bacteria from the Petri dish that had been used during the process of genetic engineering. Furthermore, that bacteria had antibiotic-resistant genes that were resistant to three commonly used antibiotics. If these cattle were bred and released, and there was actually a plan in Brazil to do just that, it could have resulted in massive exposure to antibiotic-resistant diseases around the world. They’re already leading to death and amputation.
One of the concepts is that when they released GMOs that transferred one species to another, years ago, they said, “Oh, this is precise, predictable, and safe.” Of course, it wasn’t. So now they’re saying, “Well, we’re going to be editing genes and not introducing any foreign genes to it so it’s much more precise and predictable.” Well, according to this statement from the scientists, actually it could lead to modifications that are more pronounced. Not just different, but more pronounced than transgenes – when you insert genes.
CRISPR and these gene-editing techniques, they’re done so easily and rapidly and repeatedly, they can edit the same genes many times. One after the other or many genes at once and have absolutely massive collateral damage. Not to mention the kind of mutations that can occur up and down the DNA as a result.
In the same vote in Australia, they’re going to try and deregulate RNAi, which is RNA interference, including sprays. Where you spray RNA onto crops and it can change the gene expression. What happens if it gets on us? We know that RNA interference can change human gene expression and this was a big deal.
If you go onto the website at responsibletechnology.org and you enter double-stranded RNA, you can see an article and a video there on why this is absolutely a potential catastrophe.
Another article came out this week from the organic sector. For sure, they’re scared. There’s a $3 billion certified organic industry in Australia and they have more land certified to organics than any other country and it’s growing 15% per year with over 25,000 certified organic operators. The entire industry is, in fact, at risk because of this vote on the 13th. Once they release these genetically engineered gene-edited products, they can cross with non-GMOs and basically eliminate the non-GMO status of organic products.
We know that organic is often contaminated by GMOs, but this also tells you that it’s a lot worse than that because it means the entire food supply is contaminatable. So you could be buying not just organic, but things that say non-GMO, and it might have products of these gene-edited organisms that have crossed with it. If these have any particular problem, like antibiotic resistance or any other problem, it could actually render the ecosystem serious problems.
Now, in the title, we talked about how the world’s ecosystem is at risk and it’s true. Because if you release genetically engineered products at any location they can travel – they can travel accidentally boarding ships, etc. But also, bacteria can travel all around the world. In fact, there was a study done by the EPA – which they will disavow its knowledge, but it was published in a journal by their employees. They released bacteria at one location and then showed its progress in monitoring stations 11 miles away in different directions and they found it all over. Over the next few years, that same bacteria were found all over the world. So microorganisms can spread around the world. Obviously, rats and mice can board ships; mosquitoes, insects, etc can board ships and planes.
What’s happening in Australia can affect the entire planet. Just like their 24 rabbits ravaged that continent, if they vote on the 13th to continue to face this folly by the Office of Gene Technology Regulator and allow these new gene-edited products- microorganisms, plants, and animals, to go entirely unregulated with no transparency and no labeling, then we’ll have no idea if what we’re eating from Australia is contaminated.
That’s today’s news. I would say to go to ProtectNatureNow.com to watch our three-minute video about how we’re actually facing an existential threat. Where GMOs, especially the gene-edited organisms, could replace nature in this generation in a way that’s irreversible. Instead of passing on to all future generations the products of billions of years of evolution, we’ll be passing on the products of laboratory creations whose number one most common result is surprise side effects.
Safe eating everyone.