Thursday Rant – GMOs: Safe or Unsafe?

I’m really, truly not sure where all of the hatred for genetically modified organisms has come from. I’m all for people questioning what the government does, but seriously! Do some research. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest that GMOs are harmful to humans, soil, the environment, etc. In fact, most of the evidence is to the contrary. Just to make sure I was on the right track, I did the research. Here we go.

GMOs

Let’s first go over the difference between GMOs and conventionally grown products. GMOs have 1 or a few well-characterized (known, defined) genes fused into their genome. These genes can be from any species, usually bacteria or viruses.  Conventional methods use genetic manipulation, not modification, to accomplish similar goals. Think of a German shepherd. These dogs have been selectively bred over many years to produce the desired traits of loyalty, intelligence, and herding. Selective breeding is used in every single crop you can imagine. Breeders force things to happen genetically. This can also introduce new genes, but they are always within species.

non gm vs gm

When the plant genetics are engineered in GMOs, the new genes are reviewed for unintended consequences. These products go through three government organizations (not all US) that are specifically designed to test GMOs for undesirable effects on humans, soil, environment, and insect biodiversity. Conventionally grown products that have been genetically manipulated do not have to go through any of these agencies to test for safety. They are assumed to be safe because they are “natural.” So far, the only proven harmful chemicals to humans from crops have been from conventionally grown crops that have been manipulated. For example, a strain of celery grown conventionally was shown to have a higher than normal concentration of psoralens which is a chemical that deters insects. The farmers were excited about the prospect of having insect resistant crops, but soon came to realize that the excess psoralens was giving everyone rashes. If this strain of celery would’ve gone through the process of being determined safe, this wouldn’t have happened (1).

The current controversies surrounding GMOs right now are as follows:

1. Whether genetically engineered (GE) foods should be labeled

2. The effect of GE foods on health and the environment

3. The effect on pesticide resistance

4. Impact on agricultural finance

5.  The role of GE products on feeding the world

I want to talk about number 1 after I’ve made my point.

The most successful genetic modification of crops so far has been the addition of genes that produce toxic proteins from soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) (2). These proteins are toxic to common insect predators, but do no damage to humans or other non-target wildlife (3). Another great thing about the toxins is that they are present inside the plant tissues. Topical pesticides have contained Bt proteins for decades, but the proteins never killed pests already inside the plant. Since it has been long established that Bt proteins do not hurt humans, scientists were given the go-ahead to genetically modify corn and soy with Bt proteins (4). Another benefit of this modification is that insecticide use has gone down by 8% per planted acre of Bt crops. This has also lead to increased yield and increased profits for farmers (5). Even further, since the Bt proteins only kill target organisms, other insects have been allowed to thrive without being destroyed by broader insecticides. A study of 42 plots of land was conducted and various insects were collected to a result that there were 23% more insect species in Bt corn fields and 71% more insect species in Bt cotton fields than conventionally grown and sprayed corn and cotton (6).

GM-crop

Another prime example is the viral resistant papaya. Pretty much all papayas are genetically modified to resist  papaya ringspot virus (PRSV). Here is where GMO haters get on the industry for treating papayas like tobacco. Tobacco had a common virus, as well. The similarity is that both viruses were treated with an internal vaccine. Two difference vaccines for two different viruses (7). This has nothing to do with the detrimental health effects of tobacco. So basically, all papayas have a very mild strain of the virus inside them the same way we all have a mild strain of measles or influenza in us from vaccines. Without this vaccine, it would be nearly impossible to grow papayas at all because the virus is so widespread (7).

I have one more example of a GMO that hasn’t been released just yet but looks promising. It is called “golden rice.” Rice is a staple crop grown in over 100 countries, and Vitamin A deficiency is a real public health problem in over 100 countries. Carotenoids, the compounds that give yellow and orange vegetables their color, can be used to make vitamin A within the body. Scientists have incorporated a gene from the yellow daffodil flower and two genes from bacteria to create golden rice (8). The second generation of golden rice has been shown in human feeding studies to have the proper balance of carotenoids to create vitamin A, even in children (9). An 8 oz cup of golden rice has enough vitamin A for 50-60% of RDA for vitamin A (10). The purpose of golden rice was not to make an extra profit. People already buy rice. The purpose was purely humanitarian in nature.

goldrice

Of course there are many more examples, but they are all in this reference (2), and I have no need to go over each one. However, it has been scientifically shown over and over that GMOs boost agricultural sustainability, lower the amount of insecticide used, improved soil quality (11, 12), and increase the biodiversity of invertebrate wildlife in crop fields (13).

There are also a lot of issues with the patenting of GMOs. I’m sure this will follow the way of gene patenting and be outlawed so that everyone can have access to GMOs. Everyone can have access now with royalty and patent fees to the creator, but that will soon be outlawed I would hope.

Before I ended my research, I looked all over the internet for a reliable article against GMOs. I found 1, yes 1! article that had any peer reviewed references at all (14). This article is laughable in it’s credibility. It makes outrageous claims with no references at all, and most of the references it does have are not peer reviewed or from some agency no one has heard of. The first 8 references were personal opinion single author books (which are not peer reviewed.) I went to PubMed and read the very first peer reviewed article on the list. This was a study on genetically modified soy and whether or not it had more allergic affect than conventionally grown soy. Skin tests of 49 subjects for both types of soy showed 14 patients with positive skin tests for allergy: 14 total showed an allergy, 8 to both types, 5 to the conventional, and 1 to the GMO (15). They had used this article to say that GM soy had a new allergen. IN ONE PERSON! It took away the allergen in five people! I guess they thought no one would check their sources.

Hey, I’m all for scientific skepticism. Look things up, do some reading. But don’t take every little piece of propaganda seriously. The article I mentioned actually said that GMOs reduce crop yield. That is their whole point! Immediately, I knew what I was reading was garbage. But a lot of people don’t. This is why I’m ok with the US not having GMO labeling laws. People freak out over the littlest things and don’t do any sound research on it.

Now, I’m all for food safety, but until I see any reasonable evidence stating that these foods are bad for me, I’m eating them, and I encourage you to do the same.

1. Committee on Identifying and Assessing Unintended Effects of Genetically Engineered Foods on Human Health, and National Research Council (Editors), 2004 Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects.National Academies Press, Washington, DC.

2. Pamela Ronald. Plant Genetics, Sustainable Agriculture and Global Food Security. Genetics May 1, 2011 vol. 188 no. 111-20.

3.  Mendelsohn M., Kough J., Vaituzis Z., Matthews K.,  2003 Are Bt crops safe? Nature Biotechnol. 21: 1003–1009.

4. EUROPEAN FOOD SAFETY AUTHORITY 2004

5. Fernandez-Cornejo J., Caswell M., 2006 The first decade of genetically engineered crops in the United States, pp. 1–30 in Economic Information Bulletin, edited by United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. USDA, Washington, DC.

6. Marvier M., McCreedy C., Regetz J., Kareiva P., 2007 A meta-analysis of effects of Bt cotton and maize on nontarget invertebrates. Science 316: 1475–1477.

7. Tripathi S., Suzuki J., Gonsalves D., 2006 Development of genetically engineered resistant papaya for papaya ringspot virus in a timely manner: a comprehensive and successful approach, pp. 197–240 in Methods in Molecular Biology, Vol. 354: Plant–Pathogen Interactions: Methods and Protocols, edited by P. C. Ronald. Humana Press,Totowa, NJ.

8. Ye X., Al-Babili S., Kloti A., Zhang J., Lucca P., et al., 2000 Engineering the provitamin A (beta-carotene) biosynthetic pathway into (carotenoid-free) rice endosperm.Science 287: 303–305.

9. Stein A. J., Sachdev H. P. S., Qaim M., 2006 Potential impact and cost-effectiveness of Golden Rice. Nat. Biotechnol. 24: 1200–1201

10.Tang G., Qin J., Dolnikowski G. G., Russell R. M., Grusack M. A., 2009 Golden Rice is an effective source of Vitamin A. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 89: 1776–1783.

11. Huang J., Hu R., Rozelle S., Pray C., 2005 Insect-resistant GM rice in farmers’ fields: assessing productivity and health effects in China. Science 308: 688–690.

12. Qaim M., Zilberman D., 2003 Yield effects of genetically modified crops in developing countries. Science 299: 900–902.

13. Cattaneo M. G., Yafuso C., Schmidt C., Huang C.-Y., Rahman M., et al., 2006 Farm-scale evaluation of the impacts of transgenic cotton on biodiversity, pesticide use and yield. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103: 7571–7576.

14. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/health-risks#11

15. Yum HYLee SYLee KESohn MHKim KE. Genetically modified and wild soybeans: an immunologic comparison. Allergy Asthma Proc. 2005 May-Jun;26(3):210-6.

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12 thoughts on “Thursday Rant – GMOs: Safe or Unsafe?

  1. stevenm13 says:

    I can’t believe you’re so incompetent in your investigation. There’s so much available. Here’s a little story I found in two minutes. I tells about documentation of GMO harmful effects and the lies and cover up involved. Granted, it’s a video, and you did say you went looking for articles. I just went looking. Here’s a short 10 minute video that could start you on the path of understanding GMOs.

  2. stevenm13 says:

    Here’s good reference spot for you to look at the harmful side of GMOs. I hope you’re really interested. I’m leaving a page link to case studies as a starting point.

    http://responsibletechnology.org/health-risks#34

    • jrz4929 says:

      The article you just posted is cited in my blog post as being very very bad. It is the article that I checked the sources for. The first eight sources were not peer reviewed. When I checked the ninth source, it was a study on the allergen effects of GMO soy and how GMO soy has less allergenicity than wild soy. So maybe you didn’t read my whole post. But that article is garbage science.
      In regards to the video, the Showa Denko L-tryptophan epidemic took place in 1989 which was before modern genetic engineering techniques and all of the fail-safes we have today. There were not three different organizations conducting trials with closed conditions back then. This situation was probably what showed the need for all of those committees checking side effects before releasing something genetically engineered onto the public. Also, the idea that genetic engineering techniques are responsible for the negative side effects has been thoroughly debunked by peer reviewed science.
      Smith MJ, Garrett RH (2005). “A heretofore undisclosed crux of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome: compromised histamine degradation”. Inflamm. Res. 54 (11): 435–50.

  3. jrz4929 says:

    Not to mention, livestock aren’t supposed to feed on cotton. It contains a compound called gossypol which can, in high doses, cause the symptoms listed. And actually, the GMO cotton has less gossypol than conventional cotton.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gossypol#Toxicity_and_potential_food_source

    • Dave says:

      Hi Janelle,
      You can feed cottonseed meal to livestock if it has been properly processed to reduce gossypol. I work for an equipment manufacturer and we have set-up successful cottonseed plants for livestock feed production.

      Good article on GMO’s, although I do think that the GMO’s-to-solve-all problems-idea is a little simplistic. It’s going to take several solutions to fight world hunger.

      Nice blog!

      • jrz4929 says:

        Thanks for the support, Dave. I wasn’t really writing this post as a solution for world hunger, more as a refute to all the ridiculous hate that GMOs get with no evidence to back it.

        Also, cotton has been genetically engineered to only contain gossypol in the stems and leaves, not the whole plant. So the GMO cotton would actually have less gossypol in it than conventionally grown cotton.

        1. Cottonseed Protein: From Farmers to Your Family Table. Medgadget.com (2006-11-22). Retrieved on 2012-06-09.
        2. Walsh, Brian. Hungry? How About Some Protein-Rich Cotton…, Time Magazine, September 14, 2009, p. 54

  4. stevenm13 says:

    One of the great mysteries surrounding the spread of GMO plants around the world since the first commercial crops were released in the early 1990’s in the USA and Argentina has been the absence of independent scientific studies of possible long-term effects of a diet of GMO plants on humans or even rats. Now it has come to light the real reason. The GMO agribusiness companies like Monsanto, BASF, Pioneer, Syngenta and others prohibit independent research.

    An editorial in the respected American scientific monthly magazine, Scientific American, August 2009 reveals the shocking and alarming reality behind the proliferation of GMO products throughout the food chain of the planet since 1994. There are no independent scientific studies published in any reputed scientific journal in the world for one simple reason. It is impossible to independently verify that GMO crops such as Monsanto Roundup Ready Soybeans or MON8110 GMO maize perform as the company claims, or that, as the company also claims, that they have no harmful side effects because the GMO companies forbid such tests!

    That’s right. As a precondition to buy seeds, either to plant for crops or to use in research study, Monsanto and the gene giant companies must first sign an End User Agreement with the company. For the past decade, the period when the greatest proliferation of GMO seeds in agriculture has taken place, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta require anyone buying their GMO seeds to sign an agreement that explicitly forbids that the seeds be used for any independent research. Scientists are prohibited from testing a seed to explore under what conditions it flourishes or even fails. They cannot compare any characteristics of the GMO seed with any other GMO or non-GMO seeds from another company. Most alarming, they are prohibited from examining whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended side-effects either in the environment or in animals or humans.

    original

    The only research which is permitted to be published in reputable scientific peer-reviewed journals are studies which have been pre-approved by Monsanto and the other industry GMO firms.

    The entire process by which GMO seeds have been approved in the United States, beginning with the proclamation by then President George H.W. Bush in 1992, on request of Monsanto, that no special Government tests of safety for GMO seeds would be conducted because they were deemed by the President to be “substantially equivalent” to non-GMO seeds, has been riddled with special interest corruption. Former attorneys for Monsanto were appointed responsible in EPA and FDA for rules governing GMO seeds as but one example and no Government tests of GMO seed safety to date have been carried out. All tests are provided to the US Government on GMO safety or performance by the companies themselves such as Monsanto. Little wonder that GMO sounds to positive and that Monsanto and others can falsely claim GMO is the “solution to world hunger.”

    In the United States a group of twenty four leading university corn insect scientists have written to the US Government Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding the EPA force a change to the company censorship practice. It is as if Chevrolet or Tata Motors or Fiat tried to censor comparative crash tests of their cars in Consumer Reports or a comparable consumer publication because they did not like the test results. Only this deals with the human and animal food chain. The scientists rightly argue to EPA that food safety and environment protection “depend on making plant products available to regular scientific scrutiny.” We should think twice before we eat that next box of American breakfast cereal if the corn used is GMO .

    F. William Engdahl is author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. He may be contacted via his website at http://www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Seeds of Destruction

    The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation

    by F. William Engdahl

    Global Research, 2007 ISBN 978-0-937147-2-2

    Seeds of Destruction

    Seeds of Destruction: Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation

    by F. William Engdahl

    Buy Now!

    This skillfully researched book focuses on how a small socio-political American elite seeks to establish control over the very basis of human survival: the provision of our daily bread. “Control the food and you control the people.”

    This is no ordinary book about the perils of GMO. Engdahl takes the reader inside the corridors of power, into the backrooms of the science labs, behind closed doors in the corporate boardrooms.

    The author cogently reveals a diabolical World of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain worldwide control over food production. If the book often reads as a crime story, that should come as no surprise. For that is what it is.

    Engdahl’s carefully argued critique goes far beyond the familiar controversies surrounding the practice of genetic modification as a scientific technique. The book is an eye-opener, a must-read for all those committed to the causes of social justice and World peace.

    What is so frightening about Engdahl’s vision of the world is that it is so real. Although our civilization has been built on humanistic ideals, in this new age of “free markets”, everything– science, commerce, agriculture and even seeds– have become weapons in the hands of a few global corporation barons and their political fellow travelers. To achieve world domination, they no longer rely on bayonet-wielding soldiers. All they need is to control food production. (Dr. Arpad Pusztai, biochemist, formerly of the Rowett Research Institute Institute, Scotland)

    If you want to learn about the socio-political agenda –why biotech corporations insist on spreading GMO seeds around the World– you should read this carefully researched book. You will learn how these corporations want to achieve control over all mankind, and why we must resist… (Marijan Jost, Professor of Genetics, Krizevci, Croatia)

  5. stevenm13 says:

    The mainstream media (MSM) usually lamely refers to GMO issues as an undecided debate or controversy, depicting anti-GMO people as “emotional” and “unreasonable” while claiming genetic engineering is more “scientific”. But the only “science” the MSM is exposed to are press releases from the bio-tech industry. The fact is, numerous studies point to GMO dangers, and hundreds of scientists are beginning to publicly speak out against GMOs at large.

    GMO Dangers

    In the notorious French study conducted by Gilles-Eric Séralini on approved GMO corn and Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate, used for GMO Roundup ready seeds, rats fed GMOs had developed dramatic cancerous tumors.

    Seralini’s two year trial was trashed by the biotech industry sycophants as unscientific, and the MSM accepted that trash without question. Those so called journalists never bothered to check the facts. The rats Seralini used were the same types used by Monsanto for their study to gain approval for their GMO corn.

    But the Monsanto “approved” report was based on a three month study. Even without disclosing adverse effects, which is common with studies from industry funded research. The Monsanto trial was obviously too short.

    Seralini’s was more appropriate for long term effects, and he added low glyphosate doses measured as equivalent to byproduct consumption of Monsato’s GMO corn. I don’t think Monsanto even included an animal testing for glyphosate.

    The good news is Seralini’s study has been validated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Did that get covered by MSM or lamestream media? They probably don’t even know about it, and if they do, they won’t report on it. But here it is for you perusal.

    You need something to rant about?

    Hey, what do think about fluoride? Maybe that’s too much right now. We better stick with GMOs for a while.

    If you want look further at what I posted, go to: naturalsociety.com

    Here, I’ll give you the link: http://naturalsociety.com/true-gmo-science-dangers-media-ignores/

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