Genetically modified yeast

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Genetically modified yeast

Postby Roger.M » Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:10 pm

I understand that it is no longer a legal requirement for Californian wines to include on their label if the yeast used in making the wine was genetically modified. I am interested to know the general feeling of the list about the use of genetically modified yeast and if this is something that should be of concern in itself and also with regard to the labelling issue.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:14 pm

I'm not concerned. I seriously doubt that true fine wines are going to go that way.

What they do with Franzia or otehr bulk type wines does not concern me.

I'm also not that concerned with GM products. Science scares people, but without it we would all still be living in caves. GM work is just the latest science to scare people. Fire scared people a long time ago.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Roger.M » Sun Nov 04, 2007 8:06 pm

You say you're not concerned but give the impression that is only because you think they use GM-modified yeast on bulk wines and not the true fine wines you presumably drink. The impression I'm getting is that it doesn't effect you so you're not concerned, which has some validity. Am I right to think you would therefore be concerned if true fine wines were similarly made, not that you will now know?!

I'm not afraid of science but messing with genetics given that those modified yeast genetics will remain in the bottle is more concerning as we don't know if there might be any health concerns. Maybe the volume you need to drink would make the cirrhosis of the liver a more pressing worry I don't know.

But I think that is the issue here - we don't know either way for sure and those who would like to know how the wine is produced through the label are denied that information now, presumably because too many people were voting with their glasses and not drinking it when it was a labelling requirement. Does this not set a dangerous precedent?

With regard to your last comment, fire still scares people and given what has just happened in California and earlier in the year in Australia they are right to be.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Nov 04, 2007 8:26 pm

First of all you misconstrue my fire comment: go back thousands of years - fire scared people because it was new and different. I'm not saying anything about wildfires.

As for the Gm yeats - I'm not afraid of it anyway whether they use it in fine wine or not. What I never like is hype scare tactics. So they are not required to list it on the labels. Yipee. Whatever. The anti-GM crowd persists with sky is falling proclamations and fear mongering with no real data. I haven't seen any Frankenstein creatures from GM. And guess what - it's impossible to prove there won't be any (you can't prove a negative). It's not worth worrying about IMO.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sun Nov 04, 2007 8:43 pm

The use of GM yeast in and of itself doesn't bother me. If I like the wine produced by this then I'll drink it. If I don't, then I won't.

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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Nov 04, 2007 8:47 pm

Mike Filigenzi wrote:The use of GM yeast in and of itself doesn't bother me. If I like the wine produced by this then I'll drink it. If I don't, then I won't.


Now why didn't I think of saying it that way...
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Roger.M » Sun Nov 04, 2007 9:12 pm

David and Mike,
Thanks for your replies and opinions. This subject was something I read about in the press or on the TV and in a pretty negative way - hence my question.
I'm not an expert on wine but I enjoy what I drink and I thought this list was an opportunity to get the view of those who know more than me and involved in the industry at a higher level so thanks.
I must admit I still have some concerns over GM. It's not the frankenstein worry which is of course the extreme (and extremely unlikely!) but rather more subtle effects that maybe we don't know about or haven't even considered.
I guess I also like to make my own informed decisions as whether I choose to drink a wine made using GM rather than have that choice taken away unless I decided to avoid all Californian wines. It always begs the question that if they don't inform you of it maybe there's a reason why that they don't want you to know about?!
I'm also very much into the adage that if something isn't broken, don't fix it and great tasting wine has been produced for centuries without GM ...
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Nov 04, 2007 9:37 pm

Roger.M wrote: It always begs the question that if they don't inform you of it maybe there's a reason why that they don't want you to know about?!


I've never subscribed the that theory, despite the black helicopters circling in my backyard.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sun Nov 04, 2007 9:51 pm

Roger - You certainly aren't alone in concerns regarding GM yeast and other GM products. Personally, though, I have a hard time coming up with possible negative consequences in their use. The objection that some make to GM crops - that pollen from them will spread into non-GM locations, thus "contaminating" the non-GM crops - doesn't really apply to wine yeast. I suppose it's possible that you could have a GM yeast that somehow added something to the wine that was unhealthful, but I see that as a real stretch. To me, this is much less of a shift in the winemaking process than going from indigenous yeast to something provided by a lab (whether it's GM or not).

I guess I just don't see what there is to fear from such a product.

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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Bob Ross » Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:51 pm

Roger, here's my understanding of the GM yeast issue in the US.

ML01 will be released this year. It was modified by inserting two foreign genes, one from the pombe yeast, a yeast found in Africa and used to make beer, and one from the bacteria O. oeni, so that the alcoholic and malolactic fermentations, normally a two-step process, occur at the same time.

There are two concerns: safety and economics. The FDA designated the yeast as GRAS without independent study and without requiring animal studies. Further, there is no evidence that residual yeast will not be present in the wine. One professor [Joseph Cummins at University of Western Ontario] expresses concern that the yeast will not be stable and may create unexpected toxicity.

The economic argument is that European and Asian consumers are more concerned than US consumers about GMO. Since there is no labeling requirement for GM yeasts, consumers outside the US may not be willing to purchase US wines generally.

There's also a concern among some winemakers that if the GMO yeasts escape into the atmosphere, they may "infect" winemaking at other wineries, which could adversely impact those wines.

None of these issues concern me much as a consumer, frankly. But I might have missed something of course.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Hoke » Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:53 am

great tasting wine has been produced for centuries without GM ...


Sorry to be such a stickler, but that is not true.

The genetic modification has been different in technique, and generally has taken longer, but the genetic modification has always been there.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Mark Lipton » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:17 am

Roger.M wrote:Y
I'm not afraid of science but messing with genetics given that those modified yeast genetics will remain in the bottle is more concerning as we don't know if there might be any health concerns. Maybe the volume you need to drink would make the cirrhosis of the liver a more pressing worry I don't know.


I fail to see how the GM yeasts are going to remain in the bottle when the yeast is normally removed from the wine by racking. There may be a few carbohydrates and enzymes from yeasts that make it into the bottled wine, but I doubt that the genetic modification changed those.

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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Victorwine » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:27 am

I can’t see how GM yeast could, opps! Dam Mark you beat me to it!

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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Mark Lipton » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:28 am

Mike Filigenzi wrote: Personally, though, I have a hard time coming up with possible negative consequences in their use. The objection that some make to GM crops - that pollen from them will spread into non-GM locations, thus "contaminating" the non-GM crops - doesn't really apply to wine yeast.


Given how prevalent wine yeasts are in the winery faciilities themselves, I see no problem for a GM yeast to multuiply and spread outside of the fermentation vessel. That being the case, a GM "superyeast" could easily displace "native" yeasts, and lead to how knows what sort of consequences? This isn't at all farfetched since they are mucking with the yeasts' metabolism (i.e. fermentation).

I suppose it's possible that you could have a GM yeast that somehow added something to the wine that was unhealthful, but I see that as a real stretch.


This part I agree with.

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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:48 am

Mark Lipton wrote:
Mike Filigenzi wrote: Personally, though, I have a hard time coming up with possible negative consequences in their use. The objection that some make to GM crops - that pollen from them will spread into non-GM locations, thus "contaminating" the non-GM crops - doesn't really apply to wine yeast.


Given how prevalent wine yeasts are in the winery faciilities themselves, I see no problem for a GM yeast to multuiply and spread outside of the fermentation vessel. That being the case, a GM "superyeast" could easily displace "native" yeasts, and lead to how knows what sort of consequences? This isn't at all farfetched since they are mucking with the yeasts' metabolism (i.e. fermentation).



Mark Lipton


Good point. I guess, though, that this wouldn't be much different than the displacement of native yeasts by any other introduced version - GM or non-GM?

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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Nov 05, 2007 9:00 am

I realized that one thing does bother me. It seems likely that the GM yeast is engineered to be more efficient. This would lead to even more alcohol in wines, potentially affecting their balance.

Still not worried about growing a third head due to GM products.

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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby MattThr » Mon Nov 05, 2007 9:13 am

As a former genetic engineer, I feel compelled to stick my oar in on this one.

There is nothing - I repeat nothing - that could possibly be hazardous to human health from the process of genetic engineering itself. What you're doing is taking a perfectly natural substance - DNA - which itself is a code for another perfectly natural substance - protein - and introducing this into a new host cell. Where the gene came from is irrelevant, as is the process of engineering itself because the end product will be hundreds, thousands even millions of generations away from the cells that were originally used in the engineering process. What matters is that there's nothing new in the engineered cells that your body might not conceivably encounter from elsewhere. There's nothing actually artificial or dangerous in your GM food.

Which is not to say I'm a wholesale supporter of this sort of thing. There are valid environmental concerns that might result from these organisms getting out into the wider biosphere. But the health concerns are just a red herring. Drink your GM wine without fear.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Thomas » Mon Nov 05, 2007 9:27 am

Mike Filigenzi wrote:The objection that some make to GM crops - that pollen from them will spread into non-GM locations, thus "contaminating" the non-GM crops - doesn't really apply to wine yeast.


Is that a proven fact, Mike.

With regular cultured and natural yeast, once used in a winery they leave behind a population. In fact, most wine producers really don't know which yeast completes their fermentations.

With that in mind, I can see a scenario where one yeast can be engineered to take over the local yeast population similarly to the way genetically engineered pollen concerns farmers.

Seems like a possibility, and if so, it would do two things: it would give the makers of the yeast a steady and sure market 2. it would create havoc in the winery when trying to do something with your wine that the yeast may not be programmed to do.

Not that I am saying this is the case, just wondering if what you say is in fact true.

Sometimes, people who are against GM aren't knee-jerking against health concerns--there are potential production concerns.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:10 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Science scares people


I think a lot of the concern about GM doesn't have to do with science scaring people, but lightly regulated corporate entities using science to do scary things with limited concern for consumer health or safety.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:52 am

Thomas wrote:
Mike Filigenzi wrote:The objection that some make to GM crops - that pollen from them will spread into non-GM locations, thus "contaminating" the non-GM crops - doesn't really apply to wine yeast.


Is that a proven fact, Mike.

With regular cultured and natural yeast, once used in a winery they leave behind a population. In fact, most wine producers really don't know which yeast completes their fermentations.

With that in mind, I can see a scenario where one yeast can be engineered to take over the local yeast population similarly to the way genetically engineered pollen concerns farmers.

Seems like a possibility, and if so, it would do two things: it would give the makers of the yeast a steady and sure market 2. it would create havoc in the winery when trying to do something with your wine that the yeast may not be programmed to do.

Not that I am saying this is the case, just wondering if what you say is in fact true.

Sometimes, people who are against GM aren't knee-jerking against health concerns--there are potential production concerns.


Yeah, I'll stand corrected on them getting around in the environment.

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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:23 am

Robin Garr wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Science scares people


I think a lot of the concern about GM doesn't have to do with science scaring people, but lightly regulated corporate entities using science to do scary things with limited concern for consumer health or safety.


So there's black helicopters in your yard as well?
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:31 am

David M. Bueker wrote:So there's black helicopters in your yard as well?


Oh, come on. There's an awful lot of middle ground between black helicopters and blind faith in the corporate sector to do the right thing.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:41 am

I don't have blind faith, but I don't think they are completely unconcerned with public safety. I get to see how a lot of the sausage is made (so to speak), and at least at the major corporation I work for there's a lot of money & time invested in trying to do things the right way. Sure they don't get it right all the time, but it's not like they are trying to screw over humanity.

It's not as simple as all corporations are bad.
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Re: Genetically modified yeast

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:49 am

David M. Bueker wrote:It's not as simple as all corporations are bad.


Show me where I ever said anything even remotely resembling that.
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