The history of GMO’s
Jeffery Smith is an expert on genetically modified foods, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, and has written several books on the history of GMO’s. In his book ‘Seeds of Deception‘ he reveals the lack of safety studies which took place before the approval of bio-engineered foods in the United States and in the European Union.
His book details the work of Arpad Pusztai, a leading researcher at the Rowett Institute in Scotland, who was given the assignment of developing standardized tests to be used to evaluate the safety of genetically modified foods. While reviewing the research given to him by the biotech industry Putsztai said “As a scientist, I was really shocked. This was the first time I realized what flimsy evidence was being presented to the committee. There was missing data, poor research design and very superficial tests indeed.”
When Arpad voiced his concerns to his superiors, he was stunned to learn that genetically modified foods had ALREADY been approved, and the foods were being consumed. Neither Putszai, nor the other scientists working in the field, or the more than 58 million people of the UK knew that they were already eating GM tomatoes, soy and corn… and had been for almost two years. The approvals had all taken place under the cloak of secrecy.
During this same time period, GM potatoes, corn and soy were being consumed in the United States. These foods were designed to manufacture their own pesticides since their DNA had been spliced with DNA from a soil bacterium. This added gene would cause the potatoes to create their own pesticide called Bacillus Thuringiensis toxin (or Bt for short). If insects ate any part of the plant they would quickly die, therefore these plants would be classified as pesticides. The FDA stated that “in all respects they were safe and nutritionally similar to their non-GMO counterparts”.
Putzstai’s studies reveal organ damage to test subjects- Back in Scotland, Putzstai was studying his own brand of GM potatoes which would manufacture their own pesticides. These potatoes used the DNA of a lectin that was naturally produced by the snowdrop plant to protect itself from insects. Putszai had studied the lectin extensively and had even fed rats 800 times the amount that his plants would eventually produce. He found that the lectin itself had no side effects, however, when he tested his newly developed genetically modified lectin- potatoes, they were considerably different from non-GMO potatoes with one line in particular containing 20% less protein than the parent line. This loss of protein was disturbing enough, as FDA officials had proclaimed there was no difference in the nutritional value of GMO foods. But these findings were completely eclipsed by Putszai’s more disturbing discoveries. He found that when rats were fed GM potatoes they suffered damaged immune systems- white blood cells responded much more sluggishly than those fed a non-GMO diet, leaving them more vulnerable to infection and disease. Organs related to the immune system such as the thymus and spleen showed some damage as well. Some of the GM-fed rats had smaller, less developed brains, livers and testicles. Other rats had enlarged tissues- including the pancreas and intestines and some showed partial atrophy of the liver. They also had significant structural changes and a proliferation of cells in the stomach and intestines that may have signaled an increased potential for cancer.
With these findings in hand he became very alarmed. Since he had tested the lectin extensively , he felt that it must have been the process of genetic modification itself that had altered the end product to become toxic to the bodies of the research animals.
Monsanto’s published studies reveal deceptive practices
In 1996, Monsanto scientists published their own feeding studies conducted on rats, catfish, chickens and cows and reported no problems. Putszai, however, disputed their study as it was performed on mature animals instead of the infant rats that Putsztai used. You see, young animals use protein to build their muscles, tissues and organs. Problems with GM foods would therefore show up in organ and body weight, as it did with Putszai’s young adolescent rats. Adult animals use protein for tissue renewal and energy. “With a nutritional study on mature animals, you would never see any difference in organ weights even if the food turned out to be anti-nutritional. The animals would have to be emaciated or poisoned to show anything.”
Not only were Monsanto’s studies were performed on mature animals, but they were only tested for a very short period of time. For example, rats were fed GMO foods for 28 days, chickens for 6 weeks, cows for 4 weeks and catfish for 10 weeks.
Media firestorm leads to GM labels in the UK- When he made his research public, Putszai came under fire and he was accused by many of falsifying his research, however, it turned that his research and the media firestorm that followed would eventually mandate that all foods be labeled if 1% of their ingredients comes from GMO sources. Surprisingly, once the stigma of labels was presented to the food industry, top manufacturers in Europe like Unilever, Nestle and Safeway announced they would voluntarily remove all GMO ingredients from their products and soon all other smaller manufacturers followed suit. Companies like MacDonald’s and Burger King went out of their way to find non-GMO food sources to feed the concerned people of the European Union.
Can mistakes be made when we switch DNA between species- In May of 2000, after Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans had been on the market for seven years, it was discovered that along with the gene which allowed the soy plant to survive the herbicide spray, it also contained 2 additional gene fragments that had been inserted into the soy DNA accidentally.
According to Sue Mayer, director of the independent research group Genewatch, “These results demonstrate that genetic modification is a clumsy process, not precise as is often claimed. There is no control over how many genes, in what order, or where they are inserted.” She added, “Additional copies or fragments of genes may affect the operation of the other inserted genes, which could have consequences for the performance and composition of the plant. This may have implications for human and environmental safety.”
A year later, a team of Belgium scientist published their own surprising discovery that adjacent to one of the rogue inserted gene fragments was a sequence of DNA-534 bases that was not part of the Roundup gene and was not natural soybean DNA either. According to the New York Times, their findings “suggested that this unknown DNA is probably the plant’s own DNA but that it was somehow rearranged, or scrambled, at the time the bacterial gene was inserted… Whatever the reason, the abnormal DNA was large enough to produce a new protein, a potentially harmful protein.”
Because GMO foods resembled foods which were already in the marketplace they automatically received the GRAS rating meaning they are Generally Recognized as Safe and therefore didn’t require any labeling or any testing in the United States. The European Union does require foods to be labeled as genetically modified and Japan has refused them altogether. And it turned out that the starving nations of Africa have even refused to be sent the GMO aid anyways because they didn’t believe that their safety was never proven.
WAYS TO LIMIT EXPOSURE TO GMO’S– Major crops are corn, soy, canola, flax seed, sugar from sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, cottonseed (used in vegetable cooking oils) some varieties of zucchini, crookneck squash, tomatoes, and sweet corn.
- Limit exposure to processed foods as many contain GM ingredients.
- Limiting your exposure to corn, soy and canola on the ingredients labels may also help.
- If you garden, look for heirloom seeds which are available online.
- Download a GMO free shopping guide
- How to avoid GM foods by Jeffrey Smith
- Find GMO- free brand names
- Download an iphone app so that you can avoid GMO’s when you are shopping for your groceries
The Latest Research on GMO’s
Eric Seralini of the University of Caen and colleagues said rats fed on a diet containing NK603 – a seed variety from crop giant Monsanto made tolerant to dousings of the bestselling weedkiller Roundup, or given water containing Roundup at levels permitted in the United States died earlier than those on a standard diet. The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumors, as well as severe liver and kidney damage. The researchers said 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group. Seralini was part of a team that flagged previous safety concerns based on a shorter rat study in a scientific paper published in December 2009 but this takes things a step further by tracking the animals throughout their two-year lifespan. Seralini believes his latest lifetime rat tests give a more realistic and authoritative view of risks than the 90-day feeding trials that form the basis of GM crop approvals, since three months is only the equivalent of early adulthood in rats. Read the full article here
A short video titled Farmer to Farmer
The experts discuss the result of their Roundup/GM cancer study which found that previously considered safe levels of GM Maize and Roundup can cause tumors, multiple organ damage, and premature death in laboratory rats
David Suzuki shares the dangers of GMO science