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Scientists have discovered a way to grow crops with an antimicrobial protein that can be extracted to fight E. coli outbreaks, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The technology relies on colicins, a type of protein produced by E. coli to attack other E. coli strains.
The study’s authors say that producing anti-E.coli proteins in edible plants offers a safe, scalable, and affordable way to treat contaminated products before they reach consumers.
Significant hurdles, however, remain before this technology becomes mainstream.
Todd Callaway, a microbiologist at the U.S. Agriculture Department, notes that despite the technology’s promise, further tests are needed. “Safety and efficacy are critical for approval before anything enters the food chain.”
Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, is unconvinced that farmers should use genetically modified crops to solve a problem he links to GMOs.
“Roundup kills certain bacteria in soils, but it’s not particularly strong against E. coli.” This decreased bacterial competition may allow E. coli to flourish, Smith explains.
Smith has written popular books discussing the threats of GMOs and has also produced a documentary on the subject. He does not hold a science degree.
Concerns like Smith’s will present a greater challenge to the colicin technology’s adoption than any regulatory obstacles, according to Peggy Lemaux, a faculty member at UC Berkeley.
“In the courtroom of consumer issues, it won’t be as easy as saying it’s GRAS,” she explains, referring to the regulatory designation “generally recognized as safe.” “There’s a lot of anti-science right now.”
Read full, original post: Scientists create GMOs to fight E. coli