Podcast: Europe suspends GMO rules to speed COVID vaccine; genes and coronavirus; Keto diet fights Alzheimer’s?

, | July 29, 2020
Credit: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Europe has suspended some of its oppressive GMO regulations to speed development of a COVID-19 vaccine, drawing accusations of hypocrisy from the scientific community. A growing body of research suggests very low-carb diets could treat Alzheimer’s, ALS and even cancer. Your risk of coronavirus infection and death may be heavily influenced by your genetics—but how big of an influence are we talking about?

Join geneticist Kevin Folta and GLP editor Cameron English on this episode of Science Facts and Fallacies as they break down these latest news stories:

For decades, Europe has so tightly regulated biotech crops that they’re effectively banned on the continent. A single variety of insect-resistant corn is the only GMO plant grown commercially in the EU. Despite these restrictions, ostensibly motivated by concerns for public health and the environment, Europe has suspended some of its rules governing genetic engineering to quickly develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Why would the EU so rapidly drop its rules if biotech plants really pose a serious risk?

The scientific community is always debating the merits of low-carb diets, but these discussions typically center around carbohydrate restriction as a treatment for obesity and diabetes. However, ongoing research suggests that very high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diets may also be viable treatments for a variety of debilitating diseases, most notably cancer. Is this more hype than science, or does such an extreme way of eating really hold promise?

DNA Sequence

Everybody knows that age and pre-existing conditions boost your risk for severe coronavirus infection. What remains less clear is why some seemingly healthy individuals appear immune to COVID-19 while others quickly succumb to the disease. The answer to this perplexing question may lie in genetics. Dramatic advances in DNA sequencing technology are helping scientists zero in on particular variables—say, blood type or mutations in genes that influence immune function—that may help explain why there are such wide-ranging reactions to coronavirus. Knowledge of these genetic factors could also help fine tune efforts to trace and control the spread of SARS-COV-2, or even develop targeted treatments for the resulting infection.

Related article:  Why did Tanzania just pull the plug on its GMO crop trials?

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Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow Professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta

Cameron J. English is the GLP’s managing editor. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.

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