Listen to the Podcast:
On today's podcast Jeffrey is joined by Dr. Belinda Martineau, geneticist, scientific writer and editor at UC Davis. She is also author of the book, "First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr Tomato and the Birth of Biotech Foods". Dr Martineau was one of the developers of that tomato and has also been so clear, unbiased, professional and scientific in her estimates of what might go wrong with GMOs. Among other things, Jeffrey and Dr. Martineau discuss a recent article she published in Biotech Salon on the poster children of biotech engineering.
Notes for this week's Podcast
Okay. And just to add a little bit to that, Jeffrey. Yes, you're right. We were our, the ours was the only product that went through. Uh, the FDA has a food additive petition process where a food makers out there come up with a new additive. They want to put our food, they have to go to the FDA and there's a process they go through and they get that food additive, um, approved by the FDA and then they can go out and sell it. And the food additive petition processed seemed very a logical thing to me. Back 25 years ago, uh, you know, we were adding something to a tomato that had never been in a tomato before and the FDA had this process for dealing with additives to food. And so that made sense to me, but like you've said, but that process was used for the flavors savor tomato. Oh. And there hasn't been another, uh, genetically engineered product food product in the United States or anywhere that has gone through a similar process like that. And I think that's a tragedy basically.
losing our use of our antibiotics because of the buildup of antibiotic resistant organisms out everywhere is the problem. The idea would be that potentially, having organisms out there with antibiotic resistance genes in them could contribute to the loss of our antibiotics, which are crucial to avoiding or dealing with human infections.
So I just want to emphasize that the only time that this antibiotic resistance marker gene is needed to tell which of the millions of cells in the Petri dish ended up getting the genes inserted. it's used to basically kill you, kill all the other cells, because you're applying the antibiotic and they all die except the ones that have the antibiotic resistant gene incorporated it. When you clone that cell into a plant, that same antibiotic resistant gene ends up in every cell of the plant. And so you've used it once to help you do this selection. There are other means to do it that are more expensive. So in order to save money, they do it with antibiotic resistant genes, but then they end up exposing the environment to all these different antibiotic resistant genes, which if they were to swap genes, for example, replace genes into bacteria pathogenic bacteria, they could create super diseases.
This week's Transcript
Hi everyone. This is Jeffery Smith and welcome to live healthy be well. My podcast, I'm today joined by dr Belinda Martineau, who I've known for years. Dr Martineau is a geneticist and a scientific writer, editor at UC Davis. However, you may know her as the author of First Fruit, which is a book and the subtitle is the creation of the Flavor Savor tomato and the birth of biotech foods. Because Dr Martineau actually was one of the developers of that, and I have been refreshed and so happy that Belinda, you have been so clear and unbiased and professional and scientific in your estimates of what might go wrong with GMOs. It's so refreshing not to hear the party line. So welcome to my podcast.
Dr. Martineau: Thank you very much.
Jeffrey Smith: Now what, what got me to call you was the February 17th, 2020 article you published in biotechs along the poster children of genetic engineering. And I thought that was an incredibly brilliant angle. So let's talk about the two poster children of genetic engineering and what it is that we learned from that. Let's start with the gene edited hornless cattle. Why don't you explain what happened and what was then published in this peer review journal and what, what the FDA's position is?
Dr. Martineau: Well, the hornless cattle is, uh, um, was being touted as, uh, the poster child for, uh, a gene edited, uh, animal product. So it was the first case. They were, uh, they were pairing this, uh, apparently cattle, um, having horns, it gets, uh, it's, uh, can be dangerous for, uh, the humans involved and it, uh, cattle can hurt each other. They tend to, they cut off, uh, dairy cattles horns, so they don't hurt each other. And so, uh, this was a genetic engineering project. I, I will use genetic engineering and gene editing, uh, interchangeably, because I feel gene editing is another form of genetic engineering. Um, they were using, not the CAS, um, nine, uh, CRISPR CAS nine system, but another system called TALONS, which is also for gene editing. And they had created a cattle that had no horns because they had been genetically engineered with this new technology.
But they, uh, wanted to go to FDA and, and get it hadn't, the whole idea with gene editing now is that the folks out there using it don't want to be burdened by regulations from the United States regulatory agencies. And so this was the poster child because, uh, there was, it was first and, uh, they wanted to go to FDA and ask for permission to have folks eat the cows after they were done with the experiments on them and they were promising basically the FDA that this technique was so precise that this was something that could happen in a traditional breeding of cows, would take longer, but you could do it the same way. And that there was nothing in the genomes of these engineered cows but cow DNA, they were 100% cow. And, uh, the trouble with that was the FDA actually, uh, in kind of serendipitously, um, uh, scientists at the FDA were, uh, testing out another program they had for looking at DNA sequences and they use the DNA sequence of the engineered cattle.
And lo and behold, they found that a bunch of bacterials DNA sequences, the vectors that they had used to insert the cattle DNA had gone along for the ride. And we're also in these genetically engineered cattle. Uh, so they weren't 100% cow DNA as they had been telling the FDA they were. And uh, and that really hit home with me because I went through a similar situation when we were, uh, preparing the Flavor Savor tomato.
Jeffrey Smith: I should, I should mention that the Flavor Savor tomato, it was approved in 1994 by the FDA. It was the only genetically engineered crop that actually had a full review by the FDA and that they looked at the actual, uh, feeding study data, uh, on the rodents that you, that you put through the system. Um, and we have the data now from their comments related to that. And you were involved in the safety testing of the tomatoes. Uh, so this is something that is no longer on the market. There are no genetically engineered tomatoes on the market as far as we know. There could be some, uh, introduced surreptitiously from some foreign entity, we'd have no idea. But right now we are not warning people to stay away from the tomatoes as genetically engineered and the flavor saver tomatoes, uh, we're only there for two or three years. So I just wanted to give people an update, so go ahead.
Dr. Martineau: Okay. And just to add a little bit to that, Jeffrey. Um, so yes, you're right. We uh, were our, the ours was the only product that went through. Uh, the FDA has a food additive petition process where a food makers out there come up with a new additive. They want to put our food, they have to go to the FDA and there's a process they go through and they get that food additive, um, approved by the FDA and then they can go out and sell it. And the food additive petition processed seemed very a logical to me. Back 25 years ago, uh, you know, we were adding something to a tomato that had never been in a tomato before and the FDA had this process for dealing with additives to food. And so that made sense to me, but like you've said, but that process was used for the flavors savor tomato. Oh. And there hasn't been another, uh, genetically engineered food product in the United States or anywhere that has gone through a similar process like that. And I think that's a tragedy basically.
Jeffrey Smith: You know, uh, we, we, we'll just take one moment here because I think for those that don't understand what the current FDA policy is, why don't you tell them how it is that the current GMOs are not evaluated by the FDA and what in fact is required?
Dr. Martineau: Well, at this point, nothing is required of a, of a crop plant. It's a voluntary process. So the FDA has taken the stand that these products are a substantially equivalent, which is not a scientifically defined term or phrase. Um, and so they encourage, uh, developers to come and consult with the agency about their new products. And, uh, most proponents of the technology will tell you that everyone has voluntarily consulted with the FDA about their products. But my question to them in return is how would you know if someone didn't go to the FDA?
Jeffrey Smith: I'll also add that the actual dossiers that we have evaluated [inaudible] from freedom of information and others that it's actually, they don't provide sufficient data for anyone to determine safety. Uh, and typically if they're asked for further information, they can ignore the FDA science. Basically summaries that are, that are far less than you would see in a public peer reviewed research paper. And some of them are very, very bad. There's no, there's no standard, there's no system about what it is that one company should provide or another company should provide. So there's a lot of variety and there's also a lot of room for hiding evidence because the actual raw data is not presented right.
And that idea that the FDA is asking developers questions and they're refusing to provide the answers. Just we would never have done that at Cal Jean back in the day when FDA jump, we said how high? And I'm flabbergasted that companies are doing that. And I have heard they're doing the same autumn line. Yes. I'm interested in who, you know, I have been following the FDA on this issue for nearly a quarter of a century. And, and, um, we all know that Michael Taylor, Monsanto's former attorney, was in charge of that FDA policy, which said no safety testing required before he then became on Santos vice president. And so I was actually quite surprised then it was the FDA that published the evidence, then a biotech company got it raw and that they actually in their, uh, publication that you refer to were in favor of requiring a proper evaluation of genetically engineered animals, whereas their actual policy for crops is just the opposite. Did that surprise you?
Dr. Martineau: Um, that's a little, it did surprise me. It, I was, I'm grateful for it. I think that that's the scientific response to have. Andy and I have to say, when I was back in the day working with the scientists at the FDA, the scientists were top notch and they were asking great questions. And we, uh, I will describe how, uh, you know, we found out that we were inserting, uh, bacterial DNA unintentionally into our tomatoes. So, you know, and an analogous situation to the hornless cattle, uh, with the gene editing, uh, we were telling the FDA back in 1992 that, uh, we were using a technology, this Agrobacterium based technology to insert are genes of interest into tomatoes. And that 10 years of, of the literature and the plant molecular biology, uh, literature and the peer review journal articles was indicating that only a certain piece of DNA we hadn't done very well defined would go into the tomato.
Dr. Martineau: And the, I'm talking to FDA scientists trying to get the tomato approved. And they came to me and said, well, you know, you're saying that only that much goes in your intended DNA, but how do you know that? And so I sent them a literature review. Basically, there had been a new review coming out of UC Berkeley and Agrobacterium expert Patty and Briski. And, uh, I sent them this review article that said only the DNA between the TD and a borders would be inserted into the plant. Um, the FDA, to their credit, again, the scientists came back to me and they said, well, you know, we didn't ask you for a literature review. We'd like you to look in your tomatoes and demonstrate to us that only the amount of DNA you wanted to go in there when in,
Jeffrey Smith: love that. In fact, I've read their, their comments about the Flavor Savor tomato, the ones that had been posted on our website. And yeah, they were, they were really doing a review. They were, they were, um, asking scientific questions and concern. We now know that the scientists at the FDA had back, and this was in the early nineties, and around that time and before then they had expressed concern about the probable, uh, side effects from genetic engineering. And it had requested and insisted that there'd be, um, tests for allergies and toxins and anti-nutrients, uh, even human toxicological tests. But all of that was overruled by the political appointee, uh, Michael Taylor. But it did show that they were thinking scientists. And, and it's great to hear that they asked you to do an actual sequencing. And what did you find?
Dr. Martineau: Well back in that day, we, I could find the answer they wanted using this Southern block technique, which is old school. But I see that it's still being used today. I think it's even mentioned in these recent FDA articles that we're talking about today. Um, anyway, what we found was that in 20 to 30% of the tomatoes that we, uh, we had genetically engineered, uh, the entire vector had gone into the plant. Um, which we you'd not expect. And that's very analogous to what happened with the hornless cattle.
Jeffrey Smith: When you say vector, let's define that for those that don't know what a vector is,
Dr. Martineau: well, um, it's like I say, we're using this Agrobacterium method and Agrobacterium is a soil back [inaudible] that actually does natural genetic engineering. It inserts some of its own genes into various plants. And, uh, it's kind of a parasitic relationship where it gets the plant to make its food for it. And so what genetic engineers did was go in and take out the genes from the bacterial DNA that we're using as a vector to uh, take out those, the Agrobacterium is DNA, replace it with our genes of interest and use agro bacterium as a vector to, to move our genes into plants. But we did it in such a way that only our genes should go in. And what ends up happening 20 to 30% of the time is that that Agrobacterium sequences, um, in our vector, um, were inserted as well.
Jeffrey Smith: And we've seen this time and again where there's, um, insertions that include pieces of the circular DNA, the plasmid or the vector from Agrobacterium. Um, or there's other changes now with, with gene editing, we know that the editing model will create a cut in a targeted location, uh, and when the cells repair that cut, they'll sometimes grab DNA from the Petri dish. And as if stuff it in there, they might, and this appears to be what may have happened with the hornless cattle, that it was cut where it was supposed to be cut, but it was as if it was packed into the cell, into the DNA, uh, with the nearby genetic material that was used to bring the gene editing, uh, software, so to speak, into the cell. Um, so what was brought into the hornless cattle? What was the nature of that bacteria?
Dr. Martineau: Well, the trouble with this, and it happened with us with our tomatoes as well, is that you don't characterize that DNA in your vector, in your plasmid, uh, because you don't expect it to go into, into your product. So, uh, what ends up being out there is, are things like in the case of the hornless cattle, uh, the things that I'd worry about are there were two antibiotic resistance genes and one, two a ampicillin. Um, and the other two [inaudible] we used to use and a lot of genetic engineers. Do you use it because it's not used for human therapies very often. Um, but ampicillin is a penicillin relative and it is used very often. Uh, my sister just came down with strep throat and she's on it right now. So that is something that the world health organization and other agencies around the planet have said. They and the American, um, medical association, even back in the day said, we'd prefer that you genetic engineers don't use antibiotic resistance genes in your experiments and product development. But, um, nobody, no regulatory agency has said you can't. So genetic engineers continue to use them, but nobody has been using it. [inaudible] penicillin resistance. So that's something I would be worried about in this hornless cattle.
Jeffrey Smith: So to be clear as to why we're concerned about this, if we, uh, they were actually developing and building out a herd of this hornless cattle in Brazil. And when they discovered that this was two years after they had published their initial, uh, study saying it was just a 100% cow, there was no problem. And they were building a herd in order to introduce it. Um, but then when the FDA in, in 2019 discovered that there was bacteria in, in every cell of the cow, they killed off the herd, that they were growing and decided never to introduce that particular cow. So can you explain just why, what could have happened, theoretically the danger to consumers if this herd had been developed widely and replaced a large percentage for example, of the cows that we're currently using?
Dr. Martineau: Well, it's, it's hypothetical risks really, but the idea that we are, um, losing our antibiotic, uh, our use of our antibiotics because of the buildup of antibiotic resistant organisms out everywhere, um, is the problem. So the idea would be that potentially, uh, having organisms out there with antibiotic resistance genes in them could contribute to the loss of our antibiotics, which are crucial to, uh, avoiding or dealing with human infections.
Jeffrey Smith: I've heard up to, there have been estimates that the number of people, number of deaths in the world per year is up to 700,000 for antibiotic resistant diseases. I'm not sure it's that high. Um, I've heard 50,000 in the U S but it's all, but it's certainly a significant number of deaths as well as amputations where they can't kill an infected infection. So they will cut off a limb to prevent it from traveling into the rest of the body and killing the patient. And that comes from overuse of antibiotics. But it might also come from the fact that many GMOs use these antibiotic resistant marker genes. Now we call them marker genes because they're, they're helpful for the scientists in the process of genetic engineering. Could you explain why they use them and why they don't actually need to use them, but they still do?
Dr. Martineau: (19:30)
Well, we use them, um, to increase the efficiency of the process. It's a very inefficient process to ask plant cells to take up new DNA. Um, and many of them don't. And so you put in an antibiotic resistance gene because then you can grow this cells on the antibiotic and question and only the cells that have taken up the DNA, your DNA of interest, which to which you've attached this antibiotic resistance gene, uh, will survive. And you're left with a Petri dish of cells that have your D DNA of interest in them and you can then go on to add hormones and get them to become a full fledged fertile plants that can be, uh, developed into a product.
Jeffrey Smith :So I just want to emphasize that the only time that this antibiotic resistance marker gene is needed is just to tell which of the millions of cells in the Petri dish ended up getting the genes inserted. And it's used to basically kill you, kill all the other cells, cause you're applying the antibiotic and they all die except the ones that have the antibiotic resistant gene in it. But then when you clone that cell into a plant, that same antibiotic resistant gene ends up in every cell of the plant. And so you've used it once to help you do this selection. There are other means to do it that are more expensive. So in order to save money, they do it with antibiotic resistant genes, but then they end up exposing the environment to all these different antibiotic resistant genes, which if they were to swap genes, for example, replace genes into bacteria pathogenic bacteria, they could create super diseases.
Dr. Martineau: Correct.
Jeffrey Smith: Bo now let's get back to the, the uh, article that you're talking about now. It's interesting that Steven Solomon, who was the director of the FDA center for veterinary medicine, said in an article that was also published in fitness February journal, that that the unintended alteration does not necessarily mean that the genome edit is unsafe to animals or consumers. But it does show that both scientists and regulators need to be alert to the potential for such unintended alterations to take place. No, he said it does not necessarily mean that the genome edit is unsafe. What I would argue is that in the case of the hornless cattle, it is unsafe because you have antibiotic resistant genes. Do you agree?
Dr. Martineau:Well, I think the jury is still out on that and that's uh, the way the FDA official put it as well. It's, it's a potential to cause, uh, you know, to, for us to lose more antibiotics and we don't want to do that. So why take that risk? And so in terms of safety, they would have to do safety analyses that haven't been done. So it's all kind of hypothetical at this point. But it definitely shows that the scientists, uh, we're not aware that this problem is with its potential for safety implications. Mmm. Could happen. And, uh, and frankly, I think based on the flavor saver example, and there are other examples out there as well of, uh, vector or plasmid sequences going along for the ride during genetic engineering experiments like this. I think they should have done a better job of looking through the literature and maybe checking, I mean, the, the experimenters with the hornless cattle had the sequence.
Dr. Martineau: We did not have the sequence of our, our Flavor Savor tomatoes, the whole genome sequence available back in the early nineties. But these folks did, they had the sequence of the cows. They could have looked at the borders. If you're making a claim that this is 100% cow. And it worked exactly and precise basically the way we claim it did. And you have the info, the data in hand that could prove or disprove this, this dramatic statement you're making as a good scientist. I think you take a look at your data before you make such a statement.
Jeffrey Smith: It was interesting that their statement had a level of arrogance in my opinion, that it was saying, kind of see, correct me if I'm wrong, that this hornless cattle gene editing was so precise and so predictable that there should be no regulation on gene edited animals. So we pass the test 100%, therefore you don't even have to regulate this whole class. That was the kind of argument that seemed to be coming out of that 2016 a publication claiming the success of the hornless cattle.
Dr. Martineau: Yeah, that's my interpretation as well that, uh, and that's why it's a, it's the poster child that, uh, here, this is the poster child for this new technology in an animal system and it's so precise that, uh, you really don't need to, it's just like you could do it with traditional breeding and you don't regulate traditional breeding. So don't regulate us either.
Jeffrey Smith: I love the, you know, one of the things about your article was this concept of poster child that you, you said so beautifully that because it was the, the example that they were holding up to be the proof that our whole regulatory system was not needed. You'd think that they would've done their homework and not based their argument entirely on a hypothesis and even sitting with the data, they never did the bioinformatics. They never did the simple tech, the simple review to verify what they were saying. And you asked the question, if they don't do this on a poster child GMO, what are they not doing on the run of the mill stuff that they're creating here and there? Um, do you, when you look at the, uh, at the work are GMO food or animals, do you see a level of, uh, lays are fair or nonchalance here? Do you see them doing the kind of deep research that you'd want them to do? Are they simply not doing the kind of research that they, they should be and as a result, uh, creating higher risks?
Dr. Martineau: Well, that's, that's a great question and frankly, I have been very disappointed when I look at the details of some of the data that is available for some of the commercialized products out there. One of the biggest offenders to me being [inaudible] three, which is the infamous, uh, you know, maze BT maize that if Eric, Sara Leni looked at that one, uh, not only does it have, uh, rearrangements in the, the inserted DNA, uh, but there are, there are point mutation, any inserted DNA, uh, and those point mutations result in the change in a change in the amino acid sequence of the gene, uh, there, uh, of the protein being made by the gene they've inserted into the maize plant. And on top of that, uh, there's read through transcription, so I know this is getting kind of technical.
Jeffrey Smith: No, this is really good. And I, by the way, I think NK six Oh three, isn't that the Roundup ready version? Roundup and then K six Oh three is the Roundup ready corn, but they often cross it with a BT.
Dr. Martineau: Okay, okay. Okay. That makes sense. Since he was looking at Roundup, um, and the rats as well. Yes. Um, in any event, it's, it's regardless of the trait. Uh, it's the condition of the DNA, inserted into the plant. And in this case, this is the only case I know of where the inserted DNA is supposed to make an a gene contained in the inserted DNA. You know, the, it started the gene in the middle of the gene. The end of the gene is all connected, chained in the DNA that's been added to the corn plant. But in this case, uh, the genes are expressed. The one in the RNA is transcribed from the gene that's been inserted. It runs through the inserted GNA DNA and out into the core adjacent corn DNA.
Jeffrey Smith: I love this example. I, you know, it's interesting. In my book, genetic roulette, I got all these examples in, right, and I brought everything that was known about these types of things and it is so refreshing to hear you talk about this, which was something I spent two years preparing all these different ways that about tech industry just as so either lazy or sorry, you're in the biotech industry, so some of these, some folks, you're not amazing. Some of these folks are like, how could you think that you can do that? Let me, let me, let me see if I, the way I describe it is there's a stop sequence. It says, okay, stop reading the DNA. Stop turning into RNA here. That stop sequence got truncated. It was nowhere to be found, so it continued to read. It continued to produce RNA and then the protein that was produced from the RNA wasn't the protein that they intended.
Jeffrey Smith: IIt was different. There were amino acid sequences in there that were not supposed to be in there. They were structured somehow from the plant, uh, codes. And so you had a fusion protein, some coated four from the inserted genes, some coded for from the plant. And that's not the only thing. You have Roundup ready soybeans. There was six different RNA strands that were longer than supposed to. Any of them could have been created new. There was so much, there's so much collateral damage that occurs in the process of inserting a gene into a, unto a crop cell, into a cell that they [inaudible]. I understand that they don't, even for a years, they didn't sequence the genome changes, they didn't sequence the RNA changes, they didn't sequence the amino acid sequence for the proteins. They just figured, well, if it's killing insects, the BT toxin is working. If it's resistant to Roundup, then the Roundup ready trade is intact. But only after these things are on the market. Independent scientists look at it and goes, guess what guys? What you've described in the literature, what you've submitted to regulatory agencies, it turns out to be not true. So, so I, I love the fact that we're getting to this level of detail because like, people are going really, really, this is their precise, uh, uh, safe method of genetically engineering crops that we're eating. Anyway.
Dr. Martineau: Alright, let's get back to, I'm not, I'm not as aware of all those cases. Uh, Jeffrey, I'll have to take a look at your work. Uh, but I know that an NK six Oh three and there are other examples as well where, uh, Monsanto put the summaries of their data. They'd put together for the FDA on their website at one point, and I could find these examples. They knew, they knew that they had scrambled the DNA around [inaudible]. They knew that they were making a Comeric RNA message between the inserted da DNA and the corn DNA [inaudible] and still the FDA saw this data and they said, okay, well, you know, and we didn't finish, you know, the voluntary process with the FDA at the end of that process is, all right, we've looked at your data, you presented to us. And like I say, many of them have those data included problems. What I would call problems with the insertion events. Uh, but, and we have no more questions for you, but, uh, we remind you that it is your job, mr. Developer of GMOs, uh, to ensure that your products are safe and, uh, if we have any further questions in the future, yada, yada, yada. You know, they get a letter like that there is no pronouncement of uh, you are approved or this is safe or it's no, it's your responsibility. We assume you're gonna you know, do a good job of making sure your stuff is safe.
Jeffrey Smith: Yes, yes. I know. It's like when, when that letter was added to PowerPoint presentations and shown throughout Europe, it was a shockwave because everyone around the world assumed that because GMOs are available on the market in the United States, that the FDA approved them. And not only that, but they had done a good job of evaluating them. When they realize that it's a voluntary process that has no standard, that is generally summary driven at the end of which the biotech industry submitter receives a letter reminding them of that it is their responsibility to determine that their foods are safe. People got really upset because they realized the, the, some of the other countries were designing their regulatory approval process that if the FDA approved it, they didn't have to do anything. So I'm just looking at my book, genetic roulette, the documented health risks of genetically engineered foods and I'm looking at the Mon eight 10 corn was truncated, uh, only 70% got in.
Jeffrey Smith: There were extraneous DNA fragments in BT. One seven, six, there were mutations in Mon eight, six, three. I mean it just goes on and on so many different choices. By the way, thank you for blurbing this book. I know you looked at it in detail. Now most people will blurb a book by just looking at a few, you know, table of contents. But I just looked recently at your email and said, I can't give you a recommendation for your book unless I read the whole thing. So good on your, your Reddit and thank you for your nice comments. Um, so let's talk about the poster child again. We, so this was the poster child for gene edited, uh, animals. And then you talked, you talked about another, uh, are we done with that because I want to go onto the next poster child here.
Dr. Martineau: Yes, I think so. I would just maybe reiterate that in our case, FDA asked us if extra DNA had gone in. We did the experiments to determine that, Whoa, yes. Extra DNA does go in occasionally. In the case of the hornless cattle, the developer said, Oh, no, it's, it's perfect. It's precise. Uh, you know, it's only cow DNA. And it was this FDA scientists themselves who found the extra DNA in, uh, in the cattle.
Jeffrey Smith: Now this may give you the wrong idea that they're talking to the listeners, that the FDA does the research on submitted, uh, dossiers. They allow the companies that develop these products to do the research. But as you said earlier, they were sort of trying out a new sequencing method and happened to pick up the hornless cattle sequence information and found it so they were probably very proud of themselves. And it's interesting that their position is that genetically engineered animals should be subject to an evaluation of the whole process, not just the particular trait. And what is it that the editors of this pro biotech journal, uh, wrote at the same time, which I found to be perfectly natural biotechnology. They've been a pro GMO or, uh, an organ of the, of the biotech industry for a long time. What was there, uh, article that they published at the same time? What was their argument?
Dr. Martineau: Well, my take on it is that their arguments are the same as the same old, same old Ben 25 years ago that, uh, you know, regulate the trait and the risks associated with the specific trait in each product, not the process. So in my opinion, the editors at bio nature biotechnology, I completely missed the point. The point is that it's the process that caused this problem in the cattle. It's the process of genetic engineering that caused the problem with our tomatoes and the extra DNA. It's the process of genetic engineering that caused insertional mutations in some of the golden rice events that were being prepared to be released to the public. Um, and so it's the process of genetic engineering that needs to be regulated.
Jeffrey Smith: Now, I love that you're pointing this out because they're, they, the FDA for the first time that I've seen is arguing for the same thing in this nature biotechnology letter that they wrote and nature biotechnology editors are saying, no, no, they're sh they should, it should not do what the FDA is doing. They're making a mistake by adding by, by adding the, asking for that. But I think the point is if they did a, if we went along with nature about technology, editorial, uh, recommendations, we would never have seen the antibiotic resistant genes in the cows and whatever level of risk was out there would have been exposed to the population. Exactly. So you mentioned, uh, the other, the other poster-child, the, um, golden rice. Uh, I've talked about golden rice for decades. Can you explain what the golden rice situation was? Cause I think it's, I think bringing the golden rice as the poster child for the same thing was, that was a brilliant way of demonstrating your argument. Go ahead. Okay.
Dr. Martineau: Well one of the reasons I brought up the golden rice in my article was that insertional mutations was one of the first risks. The first risk that I knew about with the technology we were using back 25, 30 years ago. Uh, we all knew that, uh, Agrobacterium when it's inserting its genes into plants, uh, tends to insert them in transcriptionally active areas of the genome in places in our genes, in the genes of the plant, uh, where genes are actively being turned on. Uh, the DNA is loosely, uh, you know, it's more open and accessible to, uh, you know, enzymes coming in to cut and paste new sequences in there. So we knew that it could happen that, uh, it happened a lot of the time. I mean, there are the, it's like 33 to 67% of the time when you go to insert genes into a plant.
Dr. Martineau: Uh, it's gonna land in one of the plant's own genes and thereby mutating that indigenous gene. So, uh, when they act, we started talking to the FDA with the tomato a year, decades ago. Um, they asked us, well, what are the risks of this technology? And that's the first thing I said, you know, the, this tech neurology can cause insertional mutations. Now in all the years that we folks have been making genetically engineered products and commercializing them, I had never read about another product that, uh, had an insertional mutation. Mmm. I was hoping that the genetic engineers were, uh, knew about the problem and we're screening their potential products and eliminating those that had landed in one of the plantings and mutating it. And so I was, I was astounded to read about, uh, the fact that the golden and golden rice, there were a couple of independent, uh, events as we call them, uh, potential products that they had that they had that had landed in the, in a rice gene interrupting a rice gene.
Dr. Martineau: And, uh, in the case of golden rice, there's an article and I, I have another blog post about this, um, by Adrian diblock who was a member of the golden rice. Um, they had a, uh, an advisory kind of a body and he wrote a long article, uh, outlining, you know, what happened at what year and it's a big mistake that they had. Well, one, they got their events from Syngenta, the company and why Syngenta would hand over to the readers on the golden rice project events that had insertional mutations in them. I have no idea they should have been eliminated before they even handed them over to the breeders. But during the course of development of golden rice, there were a couple three occasions when folks asked to look at the DNA sequence information associated with them. And still still, they chose events because they were producing more of the beta carotene that they wanted in the final product. They chose those events that had insertional mutations in them. And when you have a, uh, a child product, like we felt the Flavor Savor tomato was, we wanted it to be as clean and perfect as possible. And I think that it's, it's astounding to me that that could have slipped through the cracks.
Jeffrey Smith: It really demonstrates, in my mind the systemic sense that was predicted by dr Louis Pribyl from the FDA and a 1991 memo where he was very angry that the policy that had just been rewritten another time by Michael Taylor, Monsanto's former attorney who was the deputy commissioner of policy put in charge of policy at the FDA precisely at the time that the GMO policy was being created and the policy for Monsanto's bovine growth hormone. Louis Pribyl was angry and basically said, what's become of this policy document? There's no science in it. It doesn't address the side effects. But then he predicted that the companies would not end up doing the tests, the safety testing that they would normally do because it wasn't on a required list. And that over time there'd be a false sense that it must be safe because it's been done over and over again.
Jeffrey Smith: In my opinion, both of those predictions turned out to be true. They're not doing the studies and there's a false sense of security. So I think that this we're seeing now in gene editing where there are computer programs that tell you what the risks are. If you do a particular gene edit and they'll go with the computer program and say, ah, it's safe and we can use the outcome. But only a very few researchers actually will sequence an animal or a plant after the gene edit. And they'll often find that what was predicted in the computer program is entirely different than what is actually happening inside the genome. There are some mutations that are much larger than would ever be predicted, and also some that are more common point mutations in the thousands. There could be changes, additions and deletions. And because in many cases when you do gene editing of plants, you have to use it.
You know, by holistics you can use a gene gun or Agrobacterium to get the materials into the plants. You end up with a similar type of mutations and deletions and collateral damage you get from traditional genetic engineering plus some additional ones with gene editing that are unique to gene editing. Like, and I would go into those, but rather than doing that, it's just more in general that for somehow there's a talking set of talking points that I've seen over and over again that it's safe had that and we shouldn't even question it. And I think that unfortunately has taken the place of, of good science. Yeah. And instead we have these hypotheses and foregone conclusions that are false.
Well, on that note, I had a professor, uh, I had been interviewed for a magazine article a couple of years ago and I mentioned that this extra DNA problem, which is what I call this vector DNA getting in unintentionally, uh, was still a problem. And this professor took great umbrage at that and he said, you need to educate yourself. And he sent me a paper from 2017 where a group of authors mainly from Monsanto at the time, Mmm. Had just published a paper saying yes. And we screen our putative products very carefully. We look for extra DNA, we look for insertional mutations, we look for rearrangements. And I wrote back to this professor and I said, well, that indicates to me that the extra DNA problem is still a problem, but at least now the authors at Monsanto are looking for the problem and screening their plants and eliminating the ones that have it from their product line.
You know, I love how you respond with such logic to these illogical statements. That was brilliant. And there's another one that you do in your article from biotech salon that the nature, biotechnology editorial brought up an argument in favor of the gene edited cow saying in over 30 years that has yet to be a single compelling case where genetic engineering posed a safety problem in a food animal. And in the same article, I love how you brought this out in the same nature about technology editorial. It described this hornless cow as the world's first genetically engineered animal. So, and then, and then it has not yet reached consumers. So it's argument was there hasn't been a single compelling case for genetically engineered animals, you know, posing a safety problem in 30 years and yet then later in the same article it admits this is actually the only one that's available. It hasn't yet reached consumers and there and it was like, you really, you really pick that up. I don't think anyone else picked that up. I've never read that anywhere else. And it was just showing how blind they are to their own logic. So I applaud you for that, Belinda. It was really great.
Dr. Martineau: Well, I'm a scientist. I feel like being logical is kind of part of the package. Uh, also just to be clear, I, they may have been referring, uh, you know, the, the, um, um, the salmon, you know, the fast growing salmon, but it isn't commercially available yet either. So I might have been referring to that.
Jeffrey Smith: Yeah, it wasn't available in the past in Canada. So through caterers and restaurants, but I think it was shut down, um, in Trex on pull the plug so they don't have money to, to grow these, uh, eggs in Prince Edward Island and they're looking for investors. I don't recommend anyone listening to invest in genetically engineered animals. All right. So before we go, uh, for there's two things, uh, first is there anything else you want to add? I, I always love talking to you. I find your insight as a genetic engineer, as someone who is a conscientious developer of genetically engineered products years ago and you were exploring the territory of GMOs before anyone. So you were like, you really wanted the FDA to look at it, whereas since you, uh, no one really wants to have the details looked at by the FDA. Is there anything else you want to share with our listeners?
Dr. Martineau: Well, I think I just close by saying, um, that there are problems we know about with all of these technologies. We've known about it, you know, for 30 years with the Agrobacterium system and the bio listic system for inserting genes into organisms. Um, there are there. So there are problems, there are, uh, precision that are associated with all these technologies and now the CRISPR and the talents and these new gene editing technologies, which are even newer. And so we know less about them and we're finding new problems with them all the time. There was a recent article saying CRISPR can cause unwanted duplications. Um, so we're still learning about them. So I think we need to regulate the process, you know, these products because of the process through which they've been produced. Um, because of these problems. So people should at least be looking, you know, did, did you scramble the DNA?
Dr. Martineau: Did you insert your gene into a plant gene or animal gene? Did you, uh, you know, cause these other problems, look for them, prove to the Gregory Latoria agencies that you have no problems like those we know about. And then because there are problems we may not know about because there's so much about genomes that we don't understand yet. I think these products should be labeled to give consumers the choice that okay, there still might be things we don't know about this technology. Uh, I should have the choice of whether to buy it or not. And that's where I'd like to end.
Jeffrey Smith: And I want to thank you for taking a stand for labeling during the prop 37 California ballot initiative in 2012 I remember, I think it was in Sacramento, you and I shared the stage and it was during the Q and a and I decided to ask you a question and I said, Belinda is genetic engineering just an extension of natural breeding, which is one of the major talking points of the biotech food companies. And you rolled your eyes and said, no, it's not just an extension of natural reading. I remember that very well. And I want to thank you. I also have a different conclusion about GMOs. My conclusion is that we should not be releasing GMOs outdoors that are viable because they'll change the gene pool. We just have a a March, 2020, um, actually, uh, I think it was February 27, 2020, um, article that came out from, uh, environmental sciences, Europe showing that sometimes there are changes in the second generation of GMOs that are completely new and different and can't be discovered in the first generation.
Jeffrey Smith: Once they're out, they can increase in their fitness and their ability to invade or displace or a number of things. And so I'm, I'm of the opinion that we should still keep it in the laboratory and that especially nothing should be in the food supply related to GMOs. I know you and I have different opinions on that and perhaps some other time we can come and offer our data to support our different opinions on that debate. Um, uh, and I don't wanna I, I respect and honor your opinions and your science-based decision making as well. I want to make clear, but I also want to give you a chance to tell our listeners how to stay in touch with you. Please tell them how to read your blog, tell them the name and where to get your book and anything else you want to say about how they can find you.
Dr. Martineau: All right. Well, my blog is called biotech salon one word.com, bio tech, salon.com. And um, I don't, I don't post nearly as often as I should. Um, so you wouldn't be inundated with a lot of emails if you signed up to follow me. Ooh. Um, and then my book is out of print, the print copy, a hard copy is out of print, but it's still available through Amazon, I think. Mmm. The electronic version, actually, it, the physical version is to, um, uh, I'm on Amazon right now and there are some books still available. There's some hard cover. Um, and maybe some paperback as well. Used copies usually, but yes, you can get them used copies. Well, there's, there's a new paperback for 66, 68. Someone's making, someone's making bank on your book. Well that's okay. As long as people read it. Okay. Well thank you so much, Belinda. It's always a pleasure to connect with you. I always learn a lot and I love your common sense science-based approach, um, from, from someone who is a genetic engineer. It is so refreshing and, uh, I'm sure some of our listeners are going to look up to you and subscribe about Exelon. All right, well, common sense, scientific base, that's what I'm shooting for. Thanks very much. Thank you so much.
Jeffrey Smith: Thank you for listening to live healthy. Be well. Please subscribe to the podcast using whatever app you're listening to, podcast with, or go to live healthy, be well.com to subscribe. This podcast will inform you about health dangers, corporate and government corruption and ways we can protect ourselves, our families and our planet. I interview scientists, experts, authors, whistleblowers, and many people who have not shared their information with the world. Until now, please share the podcast with your friends. It will enlighten and may even save lives safely.