Dangers of GMO Foods: What You Should Know

By | May 16, 2015

South and North America are the biggest cultivators of edible genetic modified organisms (GMOs) such as soy, corn and canola. Genetically modified (GM) plants have been modified to tolerate and/or produce one or more pesticides. In other words, they are designed to contain pesticides. GM plants accumulate pesticide residues throughout their life, it’s no wonder why they are considered as “pesticide plants”.

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About 80% of GM plants are herbicide-tolerant, especially to Roundup (a common weed killer), while the remaining 20% of GM plants produce mutated Bt insecticide toxins via transgenes (insertion of mutated genes derived from the bacteria – Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)).

No human or animal epidemiological studies have proven the safety of edible GMOs.  However, animal feeding studies on GM foods showed:

  • immune problems
  • toxic reactions in the digestive tract
  • damage to the liver and kidney
  • higher death rates and organ damage
  • reproductive failures and infant mortality

How GMOs Are Harmful To Health

1. Genetic engineering creates unexpected and unpredicted changes. The insertion of genes into plants can result in hundreds or thousands of mutations. Consequently, the DNA of GMOs are different from that of its natural parent. In addition, the insertion process also causes changes in natural genes. All of these changes in genetically engineered plants can produce naturally occurring or new toxins, allergens, carcinogens or anti-nutrients.

2. Gene transfer from GM plants Concern arises over the possibility of inserted genes transferring into the DNA of gut bacteria inside our intestines. Some examples include:

  • Antibiotic resistance marker (ARM) genes are used during gene insertion to identify which cells successfully incorporated the foreign genes. The possibility of ARM transferring to gut bacteria might create super diseases that are not treatable with antibiotics.
  • Bt genes in GM corn might turn our gut bacteria into living pesticide factories.
  • In the only human feeding study, genes from Roundup Ready soybeans transferred into the DNA of human gut bacteria and continued to function, ie. foreign GM proteins may continuously be produced inside us.

3. Herbicide Overuse

“Roundup Ready” crops are genetically modified to withstand the deadly effect of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. These crops have led to a significant increase in the use of herbicide and development of herbicide tolerant weeds. It’s no surprise that “Roundup Ready” crops contain higher levels of herbicide residues.

Glyphosate is a systemic herbicide, ie. it is absorbed by the leaves of plants, so cannot be washed off. It depletes nutrients from plants/crops and may cause nutrient deficiencies in livestock and human. It is not biodegradable and can stimulate disease-causing organisms in the soil.

Glyphosate exposure has been linked to endocrine disruption, cancer, birth defects, infertility, DNA damage, digestive disorders, and liver and kidney damage.

Humans rely on beneficial bacteria in the gut to synthesise essential amino acids and regulate immune homeostasis. Glyphosate kills beneficial bacteria in the gut, thus disturbing the balance of good and bad bacteria, and depleting essential amino acids. This increases the risks of chronic diseases in humans.

4. Bt Toxin

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria is a naturally occurring bacterium used for insect pest control, especially in organic farming. Bt produces crystal protein (toxin) that creates holes in the gut lining of insects and causing death to them.

In Bt GM crops such as BT-potato, Bt-corn and Bt-cotton, modified version of Bt genes are inserted into the plant’s DNA. This causes BT GM crops to produce Bt protein/toxin and protect themselves from insects. The Bt toxin produced in Bt GM crops is more toxic than the natural Bt toxin, and several thousand times more concentrated than natural Bt spray. Moreover, Bt toxin in Bt potato and Bt corn doesn’t wash off so it gets consumed.

Biotech companies claim that Bt toxin is quickly destroyed in the digestive system and poses no harm to humans and animals. However, doctors at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, Canada found traces of Bt toxin in non-pregnant women, pregnant women and their fetuses, supposedly exposed through diet. Bt toxin appears to cross the placenta to the foetus. The presence of Bt toxin in the blood samples showed that it survived human digestion, contrary to the claims of biotech companies.

Bt cotton is linked to human allergies. It has been reported that farm workers in India are suffering from rashes and itching due to handling Bt GM cotton. Following large scale Bt spray programs in Vancouver, Canada and Washington, USA to control gypsy moth, over 500 people reported health problems, mostly allergy-like and flu-like symptoms. People with compromised immune systems or pre-existing allergies may be more susceptible to Bt effects.

In animal studies, Bt toxin fed to mice caused hematotoxicity (toxicity of the blood and blood forming tissues). Bt toxin provoked significant immune response in mice that were fed Bt corn. They also showed signs of hepatorenal toxicity, with significant disturbances in liver and kidney function, the two main detoxification organs.

A long term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined GM soy and GM corn diet found that this GM diet is associated with gastric and uterine differences in pigs. GM-fed pigs had uteri that were 25% heavier than non-GM-fed pigs (which may be a sign of uterine diseases such as cancer, endometriosis, adenomyosis and polyps). GM-fed pigs had higher rate of severe stomach inflammation than non-GM-fed pigs, which may be caused by Bt toxin in GM corn. Since both humans and pigs have similar digestive tract, the findings in this study raise serious concern about the impact of herbicide tolerant and insect resistant proteins produced by GM food crops.

We Have Become Involuntary Guinea Pigs

The impact of GMOs on human health remains unknown as no long term rigorous testing has been carried out. Even if GMOs are causing diseases, it will be extremely difficult to trace the adverse effects back to the source due to lack of labeling and traceability.

The increasing evidence from animal feeding studies shows that GMOs are not safe. Animal tests are generally accepted as indicators of human risk.

As consumers, you can protect yourselves by avoiding GM foods and ingredients. By purchasing non-GMOs, you are pushing GMOs out of the food supply.

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