The rabbit hole only grows deeper as you fall into the details of an experiment that is going wrong. This article gets into some of the finer details as to how Monsanto dodges mandatory safety studies for their food crops. Again a giant thanks goes to Jeffery Smith and Dr. Michael Antoniou. Most of the material found in these articles is thanks to them and other researchers. Again, be sure to read GMO Myths and Truths by Dr. Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson and John Fagan. Don’t forget to watch the documentary mentioned in the previous article called Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives.
For those who wonder if the FDA would approve lethal products to the market, here is some data (http://126.96.36.199/d24t8/141456.pdf) collected by the United States General Accounting Office demonstrating that more than half of the drugs approved by the FDA between 1976 and 1985 had severe or fatal side-effects that had not been detected during the agency’s review and testing.
There were over 198 drugs tested in that period of time and 102 of those drugs were found to have side effects serious enough to warrant withdrawal from the market or major changes in labels to account for new dangers. That is a 51.5% chance of consuming pharmaceuticals that are ranked ‘serious’ which is classified according to the FDA as “Adverse reactions that could lead to hospitalization, increases in the length of hospitalization, severe or permanent disability, or death.” Those are not good odds.
There are 6 good reasons that the public should be concerned with GMO food safety as illustrated in this fantastic presentation by Dr. Michael Antoniou (head of Gene Expression and Therapy Group in Kings College within London) whom has over 32 years of experience with genetic engineering technology, in addition he has over 50 peer-reviewed publications and holds inventor status on a number of gene expression biotechnology patents.
- New technology: only ~ 40 years old.
- Does not involve natural sexual reproduction methods.
- Allows transfer of one or few genes between totally unrelated organisms, employing artificial combinations of genetic material.
- Crosses species barriers to reproduction in ways that do not occur naturally.
- Produces combinations of genes that have not evolved to work together in a coordinated integrated whole.
- GM transformation process is inefficient: frequently uses antibiotic resistance genes to select for transformants, which can persist in final crop.
There are three sources of health risks that can potentially arise from GMO foods:
- The introduced foreign GM gene (“transgene”): GM gene product directly (e.g. Bt toxin) Altered plant biochemistry caused by GM gene product (e.g. enzymes conferring herbicide tolerance)
- Higher exposures of herbicides used in conjunction with the cultivation of GM crops (e.g. glyphosate).
- Altered plant biochemistry caused by mutagenic effect of the GM transformation process.
Dr. Antoniou also clearly illustrates in that presentation that Health Risk Evaluation of GM Food is grossly inadequate. The following is the 1st step in the process of food testing.
Substantial Equivalence, Generally Recognized as Safe and “Comparative Assessment”.
- General biochemical analysis only.
- Assessment of known toxins/allergens only.
- GM and non-GM parental plant are “substantially equivalent” if they contain similar amounts of biochemical components within limits of natural variation.
- No feeding trials formally required if substantial equivalence is found.
FLAWS: Only looks at gross biochemical composition; only looks at known components.
Notation: For whatever it’s worth: BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) “Mad Cow” cow is considered “substantially equivalent” to a healthy cow according to this guideline. Because it only measures the gross biochemical markers and not the molecular markers. It is important to note that if they can establish, by the above criteria ‘substantial equivalence’, it means they do NOT have to do any toxicity studies which starts with animal feeding studies.
This being said, because of the approach by this standard, currently GMOs are considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe) in America. As you can tell by the above distinction, if mad cows are considered safe based off of this process of gross analysis than how wise is it to consider that the prerequisite for ideal safety testing?
In addition to the above the way the GMO foods are evaluated is even more flawed.
- The industry compares GM crop/food with large number of varieties unrelated to GM variety under study grown at different times and locations.
- Use data in the literature (“historical norms”)
The ending result of this is as follows:
- Increases variables or “noise” in the system
- Masks rather than highlights effect of GM process.
The only scientifically valid comparators: GM vs non-GM parent (“isogenic”) grown at same time and location. However these biotechnology companies such as Monsanto do not follow valid scientific comparators as illustrated above.
Studies that indicate health concerns use ‘molecular profiling technology’, which is a fine analysis as opposed to gross analysis. This fine analysis has shown the following:
1. Commercialized Bt corn variety MON810:
- Marked alteration in protein composition profile specifically related to the transgene insertion event
- Newly expressed protein: zein, a well-known allergenic protein
- Differential response to environmental inputs as a result of the genome rearrangement derived from GM gene insertion
- Truncation of see storage proteins (Zolla et al., 2008)
- Disturbance in amino acid profiles (Manetti et al., 2006,; Herrero et al., 2007)
2. Non-commercialized GM rice:
- GM rice engineered to be resistant to fungal diseases: markedly altered seed structure and composition (20 to 74% for amino acids; 19 to 38% for fatty acids; 25 to 57% for vitamins; 20 to 50% for elements; 25% for protein) (Jlao et al. 2010)
- GM rice engineered with CrylAc Bt toxin and sck insecticide genes: marked biochemical and nutritional disturbances; e.g., concentrations of glycerol-3-phosphate, citric acid, oleic acid and sucrose increased considerably (Zhou et al., 2009)
Of course after molecular profiling, one would find great difficulty to claim a GM crop as “substantially equivalent” to isogenic non-GM variety.
Bt toxin has been used on crops for sometime prior to genetically engineering it and hasn’t posed a real health risk. However, just because the Bt toxin has been used on crops for some length of time with little sign of toxicity for humans, does not mean we can conclude that the GM variety is safe. In fact they respond very differently. GM Bt toxins are truncated active forms unlike the native form found on crops. In fact GM Bt toxin is only approximately 45% identical to the native form.
This concludes this article, and to cap it off it is important to keep up with the technology and medical field growing so rapidly. Here is one of the more interesting findings: printing three-dimensional tissue to create implantable cartilage for damaged joints.
Keep checking back to enlighten yourself on the potential threat of GMOs on your body. Review the data and remember that all evidence is suggestive. This is a great resource for Non-GMO information. To the Boise/Idaho readers visit this page (http://www.facebook.com/gmofreeidaho) to learn more on what you can do today to make a more informed decision at the grocery store.
Because you ought to feed your mind everyday. Here is a taste if wisdom from our comrade Henry David Thoreau.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”