GMO Risks

Introduction: the genetic manipulation referred to in this article is *not* about crossing different breeds of sheep, developing various hybrids of corn, or other “within species” enhancement to improve naturally-occuring traits.

Instead it’s about using a bacteria or virus to artificially insert an entirely foreign DNA into a plant’s genes, such as human genes inserted into rice, or Monsanto’s “Bt” (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn, which was genetically modified to produce a protein that ruptures the stomach when ingested by pests.

The first risk of genetic engineering is the very theory underlying its science and methods, which was brought to light by the United States National Human Genome Research Institute.

All along, genetic modification has been based on a theory that one gene will express (or “code for”) one protein, and thus an organism’s genome — its total complement of DNA genes — should fully account for its unique pattern of inherited traits.

However, when the Human Genome Research Project was completed in 2002, it proved this theory was not true.

The Human Genome Research Project discovered that genes operate in a complex network in ways that are still not fully understood.

The human genome has just under 25,000 genes, yet our bodies function with approximately 100,000 proteins. This is not a one-to-one ratio.

There are far too few human genes to account for the complexity of our inherited traits, not to mention the vast inherited differences between plants — including the unrelated genes of the bacteria or viruses with which plants are being genetically manipulated.

“A genome is a complex ecosystem that is greatly influenced by the environment—each gene of a genome makes many proteins according to environmental cues,” Dr. Thierry Vrain, former research scientist for Agriculture Canada.

DNA contains a newly-discovered “second level” of code

In a December 2013 study, scientists at the University of Washington discovered a second code “hiding” inside DNA, which completely changes how scientists read the instructions contained in DNA, and how they interpret mutations to make sense of health and disease.

According to the lead scientist (Genome scientist Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos at the University of Washington, pictured above), “The fact that the genetic code can simultaneously write two kinds of information means that many DNA changes that appear to alter protein sequences may actually cause disease by disrupting gene control programs or even both mechanisms simultaneously.” – Dec. 13 issue of Science.

Gene Modification is Not Specific, Precise, or Predictable

Because we don’t entirely understand how genes work—as evidenced both by the Human Genome Project’s findings as well as the recent discovery of a second string of code inside DNA—the very process of genetic engineering—the random insertion of a gene into the genome—causes disruptions in many enzymes that perform basic metabolic work.

Says Dr. Vrain, “Every scientist now learns that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic.”

To put it simply, the Human Genome Research Project completely undermined the “science” behind genetic engineering. The whole paradigm of genetic engineering technology was based on a misunderstanding. The “Big Ag” corporations’ claims about their methods of genetically modifying food crops being “specific, precise, and predictable” are entirely untrue.

Modifying one segment of DNA does not have a single direct result; instead it can cause a spiraling effect of unintended consequences

Long before the Human Genome Research Project’s findings, a study published in 1999 in the International Journal of Biological Sciences found that inserting a gene into another organism’s DNA 1) causes thousands of activations, not just the one trait the researcher is looking for, 2) activates non-targeted (and sometimes toxic) genes; 3) affects idle genes, with entirely unknown effects; 4) lowers the plant’s nutrient content (since the plant’s energy is consumed with producing unnecessary proteins activated by the insertion).

Due in no small part to those findings, a group of scientists wrote a now-landmark letter titled “Beyond Substantial Equivalence” to the prestigious journal Nature. In the letter, Erik Millstone et. al. called the FDA on the carpet in regard to their having branded genetically modified foods as “substantially equivalent.” Mr. Millstone called this term a “pseudo-scientific concept” that is “inherently anti-scientific because it was created primarily to provide an excuse for not requiring biochemical or toxicological tests.”

Fast forward to this decade, and the results of the Human Genome Research Project are once again being proven: while working to find allergens in their GMO crops, scientists discovered that the genetic regulatory sequence used in more than 60% of GMO crops encodes a significant fragment of a “viral” gene that, in their words, “might result in unintended phenotypic changes.”

During this same study, they also discovered some GMO crops had “superfluous” and “unsuspected” genes, including incomplete or rearranged sequences. The results of this study could not more clearly underscore what the Human Genome Research Project has been saying all along:

“Genetic engineering is an experiment in the proposition that human institutions can perform adequate risk assessments on lab-created living organisms”

As Barry Commoner, American biologist, college professor, author, and former Editor of Science Illustrated, says, “The most dramatic achievement to date of the $3 billion Human Genome Project is the refutation of its own scientific rationale,” as excerpted from an article in Harper’s Magazine.

If the Human Genome Research Project clearly demonstrated the inherent flaws of genetically engineered agriculture, why has this corollary been swept under the media carpet in the United States?

Barry Commoner summarizes it like this in that same article: “biotechnology companies are not in the habit of publicizing studies that question the efficacy of their miraculous products.”

Quite the opposite in fact:  these “ag-bio” corporations are in business to make a profit, with their primary allegiance to shareholders. They craft a strategic wall of corporate protection using paid politicians who will write laws in their favor, with paid “research” that is conducted to show the presumed safety of their products, with ex-employees who they’ve assisted in gaining seats in the FDA and USDA, and with food industry front groups and public relations firms that are paid to counter real research.

So what are the inherent risks of consuming food that contains unexpected genetic behavior? What are the resulting outcomes to the crops and the environment?

The Risks of Genetic Engineering

The outward risks of genetically engineered foods fall into three categories:

1.  Environmental Hazards
2.  Human Health Risks
3.  Economic Concerns

I.    ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS

Unintended harm to other organisms

Over a decade ago, a laboratory study published in Nature1 showed that pollen from corn that was genetically modified to produce its own insecticide caused high mortality rates in monarch butterfly caterpillars (article abstract here); the data was corroborated in a more recent study, as cited in a July 2011 article in the NY Times, and once again in a study by the University of Minnesota, as published online in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity in March 2012.

But monarchs are suffering on another level: crops that are genetically engineered to resist weedkillers and the resulting increased use of weedkillers have all but exterminated milkweed—the only plant used by Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs, and Monarch caterpillars to eat. As of January 2014, the Monarch population is at its lowest point in history.

And it’s not just butterflies… experts believe the dramatically decreasing populations of bees both in the United States and abroad are directly related to genetically engineered plants, their pollen, and recent studies also indicate negative honeybee impacts from the herbicide Glyphosate—the key ingredient in RoundUp, which Monsanto’s GMO crops are engineered to withstand.

roundup-ready-crops

Another study back in 2007 showed that the corn’s insecticidal toxins leached into nearby streams, causing increased mortality and reduced growth of caddisflies, an aquatic insect related to the pests targeted by the toxin in GMO corn (yes, this problem has been going on that long!). Further, because caddisflies are a food resource for fish and amphibians, contamination spreads further when these insects are consumed by its natural predators. First reported on the Indiana University website, the study was subsequently published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science; read the abstract (with associated commentaries) here.

It is not possible to design a B.t. toxin to be genetically engineered into corn that would only kill crop-damaging pests while remaining harmless to all other insects.

“It’s like AIDS,” says Michael McNeill — an agronomist who received his Ph.D. in quantitative genetics and plant pathology from Iowa State University in 1969 and has been a crop consultant since 1983. He was among three experts invited by county officials to testify at the August 10, 2011 meeting of the Cropland Policy Advisory Group (CPAG).  Read his summary here.

Reduced effectiveness and increased use of pesticides

Just as some populations of mosquitoes developed resistance to the now-banned Monsanto insecticide DDT, insects are quickly becoming resistant to crops that have been genetically modified by Monsanto to produce their own insecticides.

Back in 2008, the USDA was already finding higher damage rates / insect survival rates than a study they performed just two years prior. In 2011,  increasing damage due to corn rootworm evolution was being reported, as cited in a study by Aaron J. Gassman, and also reported by several midwest universities; followed by armyworm evolution in late 2012.

The most recent study found more than 1/3 of the 13 major pest species have become immune to GMO corn and cotton, and several others were in the process of developing resistance. In the scientist’s own words, “You’re always expecting the pest to adapt. It’s almost a given that preventing the evolution of resistance is not possible.”

The same is true of herbicides: genetically modified canola (engineered to withstand Round-Up) is now spreading as an uncontrollable, invasive weed in California.

And it’s not just the crops that are spreading. More and more varieties of “superweeds” are becoming increasingly resistant to any known weedkillers, while driving up the cost of food in direct proportion.

Back in July 2011, the superweeds were becoming so powerful that farmers were being forced to use older, more toxic chemical sprays, more frequently and in heavier volumes, or spend extra money hiring day laborers to literally chop out the plants… some of which were reported to have stems as thick as 4 inches in diameter, growing three inches a day, and damaging conventional farm machinery.

As of May 2012, farmers interviewed by the New York Times  reported that weed control was “back to where we were 20 years ago.”

No surprise Monsanto’s profits exceeded expectations in 2012 — after being paid for the privilege to purchase their “RoundUp Ready” seeds each year, farmers must pay them even more for ever-increasing volumes of RoundUp.

Experts are calling the superweed epidemic “the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” warning that it could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs, and even greater pollution of land and water.

Biotechnology’s response: Dow Agrosciences introduced a soybean that has been genetically engineered to resist three herbicides: glyphosate, glufosinate, and a 2-4,D formula (one of the main ingredients of Agent Orange) — enabling farmers to use three levels of weed control.

In summary, one of the greatest promises of the agri-bio industry — that GMO crops would reduce the use of chemicals — is sadly untrue: pesticide use has increased by 404 million pounds from the time genetically engineered crops were introduced back in 1996, to the year 2011. View the original report here; view the EPA’s older report on pesticides here (they have not published an updated report since 2006-2007). Considering how   detrimental pesticides are to human health… (you can read more about that here).

Uncontrolled biological pollution

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) states the environmental impacts of GMOs will include an “uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction, and a potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.” Read more here, and here, and here.

GMO Canola is spreading via migratory birds, who eat the plants in one area, then fly and deliver “fertilized seeds” to the fields of another area. Monsanto’s telling farmers they must pull these weeds by hand, since none of Monsanto’s weed sprays are killing their own spray-resistant plants.

Another study published in the Journal of Bioscience in June 2011 showed that long-term effects of genetic engineering is in the plant itself: resulting in developmental defects, growth retardation and sterility.

Fifteen years of research by the USDA indicates that the chemical glyphosate, the key ingredient in RoundUp herbicide which is genetically engineered into, and heavily sprayed onto all GMO crops, could be causing fungal root disease resulting in detrimental impacts to the root structure of plants, said Bob Kremer, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

Studies have also shown that soil biology is negatively impacted when it’s used to grow GMO crops, as reported in the October 2009 issue of The European Journal of Agronomy.

And once it’s in the soil, it gets into our water. The increased use of herbicides (including older, more toxic chemical “cocktails” to combat superweeds) is leaching through the soil into the groundwater supplies (NIH study from March 2012) beneath “America’s breadbasket,” where it’s drawn back up as drinking water and crop irrigation via wells.

Even before the NIH study, in 2011 three separate universities and the USGS found that RoundUp (glyphosate) is present in both the water, and the air, in significant levels. Glyphosate, the key ingredient in “Roundup” herbicide, was found in every stream sample examined in Mississippi over a two-year period (fishing, anyone?), and also detected in Iowa streams, as well as most air samples taken (breathing, anyone?).

Need a complete list of glyphosate studies with sources? Click here.

Gene transfer to non-target species

Another concern is the natural cross-breeding of crops in adjacent fields, resulting in the transfer of transgenes into organic and conventional (non-genetically-engineered) crops.

Sadly, farmers who become the victim of natural crop cross over are often subject to lawsuits: Monsanto has repeatedly filed patent infringement lawsuits against farmers who may have inadvertently harvested GM crops mixed into their non-GM crops. Farmers insist these crops are the result of cross-pollination from GM crops planted a field or two away; Monsanto claims the farmers obtained Monsanto-licensed GM seeds from an unknown source, and mixed them into their seed sources without paying royalties to Monsanto.

Monsanto came up with a solution for cross-breeding: terminator seeds. These seeds were genetically engineered to only survive for one season, thus preventing cross-contamination from one season to the next (unless the plants cross-pollinate neighboring non-GM plants prior to harvest), and forcing farmers to purchase seeds from Monsanto every year, rather than following the age-old practice of saving seeds from one harvest to plant the next. (Though their contract already stipulates that they must buy new seeds each year, this approach was thought to guarantee it.) Fortunately, Terminator Seeds have not yet been brought to market.

Another solution posed by Monsanto are buffer zones to inhibit cross-over by GM crops5, 6, 7. By planting a buffer of non-GM, non-harvestable corn around a field of GM corn, they suggest that beneficial or harmless insects would have a refuge in the non-GM corn and could destroy the non-GM corn without develop resistance to the GM corn’s inherent pesticides (provided of course that the insects understand which zone is which, and restrict their activities to the non-GM zone…….).

Monsanto further postulates that buffer zones ranging from 6 to 30 meters or more8 would likewise inhibit gene transfer to weeds and other crops because the wind-blown pollen would not travel beyond the buffer zone (provided there are no strong winds or tornadoes).

However buffer zones would still not address genetically engineered plants being transferred by migratory birds eating the seeds. And to date, few farmers have been willing to lose valuable production yields to let land go fallow in non-usable buffer zones.

2.   HUMAN HEALTH RISKS

Emerging Health Risks in Human Studies

Nearly two decades after genetic engineered crops have been in your grocery store, human studies are only now starting to be performed — but not in the United States.

Why is no research being done on the potential human health risks of GMOs in our country? The ag-bio companies won’t let it happen.

Emily Waltz explained it back in 2009, in her article published in Nature Biotechnology: “the crop industry’s strong-arm tactics and close-fisted attitude to sharing seeds is holding back independent research and undermining public acceptance of transgenic crops.” (Read the full article here.)

Scientific American magazine agreed: “Agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers.” Scientists must literally ask these corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops. (Source: Scientific American Magazine, August 13, 2009)

Not surprisingly, no such permission has been granted in the last twenty years, except for studies that are crafted to put GMOs in a positive context.

Two years later, the scientific journal Science Direct published a study in April 2011 in which they found significant conflict of interest in “research” done on the health risks and nutritional assessment of genetically modified products. “Where there was a conflict of interest, 100% of the studies (41 out of 41) made a favorable GM safety finding.”

As recently as 2014, a comprehensive peer review of the Ag-Biotech industry’s so called ‘long term safety studies’ found them to be significantly inaccurate or flawed and no proof of safety.

Health Risks of Pesticides as it relates to GMOs

One study in early 2011, which was not directly aimed at GMOs and thus made it through research without hindrance, was UCSF’s sobering report about the percent of pesticides present in pregnant women in the United States… including chemicals that have been banned in our country since 1972.

How does a toxic pesticide residue study relate to GMOs?

Over 80% of GMO crops are engineered to either 1) resist herbicides — which enables farmers to saturate them with weedkillers during their growth period, in an effort to control the (super)weeds growing in the same fields, or 2) generate their own internal pesticides.

This study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology in early 2012 explains it best: “Insecticidal Bt toxins such as those produced in genetically engineered plants can be detrimental to human cells. Researchers at the University of Caen (France) showed that toxins produced in, for example, the genetically engineered maize MON810, can significantly impact the viability of human cells.”

As stated previously, the use of pesticides has increased dramatically since the advent of genetically engineered crops. GMOs represent a double chemical dose delivered directly to your dinner table—both inside and outside of the plant. (Or triple, if you count sprayed chemicals leaching into soil and groundwater…).

Outside of the U.S., a February 2011 study linked the insecticidal toxin found in genetically modified crops to the blood of pregnant women, their fetuses, and non-pregnant women in Canada. View the original study document here (online viewable pdf).

But it’s not just about the toxins we’re ingesting…

Documented Proof of Modified Genes Surviving the Digestion Process

New studies are disproving one of the biggest assurances that pro-GMO manufacturers and scientists continue to make: that “new genes introduced in GM food are harmless, since all genes are broken up and rendered inert during digestion.”

The first study done in the U.K. indicates a potential release of genetically altered DNA in human digestive tracts: “the possibility of functional DNA release from plant GMOs cannot be excluded. The extent of the ability to natural transformation among intestinal bacterial species and strains is not known, although as a phenomenon natural bacterial transformation seems to be more frequent than hitherto recognised, and also intestinal pathogens might be transformable.” (Source: European Commission on Health and Consumer Protection; studying the effects of genetically engineered Brassica Napus or “rape” used in the production of rapeseed oil.)

A second study done in China in early 2012 was much more sobering. It showed that ingested plant microRNA — such as the genetically modified bits containing Bt — not only survive digestion, but most definitely influence human cell function. This means that DNA can code for microRNA, which can, in fact, be hazardous… having been linked for ten years to human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. What a contrast  to Monsanto’s claim that there is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GMO foods in humans. Read the summary article here; view the original study report here.

A third study in Norway, published in July 2012, proved that GMO genes are indeed transferred through the intestinal wall into the blood. During their study they found “pieces of genetically modified DNA in large enough segments to be identified in blood, muscle tissue and liver.”

Not only did that Norwegian study once again disprove the long-held “pro-GMO” claim that “new genes introduced in GM food are harmless since all genes are broken up in the intestines,” the test animals also showed increased weight gain, increased appetite, decreased immune function, an inability to properly digest proteins, as well as a different intestinal microstructure. (If this sounds like most of the U.S. population, it’s no wonder Monsanto doesn’t want labeling approved in this country.)

The most recent study done at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand reinforces the “altered genes survive digestion” theory. In this study, they found that the double stranded RNA (dsRNAs) present in genetically engineered wheat were able to withstand digestion (even after cooking) and circulate through the body, where it amplified into more and different dsRNAs and “alters gene expression in the animal.” The scientist went on to state: “The molecules created in this wheat, intended to silence wheat genes, can match human genes, and through ingestion, these molecules can enter human beings and potentially silence our genes. The findings are absolutely assured. There is no doubt that these matches exist.” Read a synopsis article here; view the full study report here.

So what if these altered genes aren’t digesting, what’s the inherent risk?  These studies indicate that the food we eat transfers more than just vitamins and protein to our cells. Our bodies are absorbing information, aka microRNA. What’s the purpose of microRNA? They usually function by turning down or shutting down certain genes. What genes would you like to have “turned down or turned off” in your body, without your knowledge or permission?

Documented Health Risks in Animal Studies

Long before any studies were done in humans, countless animal studies9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16  indicate serious health risks associated with GMO food consumption.

The association of GM foods and specific disease processes is also supported. A 2005 study by Dr. Irina Ermakova of the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology at the Russian Academy of Sciences showed a significantly higher mortality rate in baby rats born to mothers who had consumed GM soy (chart shown above), while the surviving babies presented significantly stunted growth (photo below right).

GMO rat study smaller ratsA 2008 study linked GM corn with infertility, showing a significant decrease in offspring over time and significantly lower litter weight in mice fed GM corn.13 This same study found that over 400 genes were found to be expressed differently in the mice fed GM corn. These are genes known to control protein synthesis and modification, cell signaling, cholesterol synthesis, and insulin regulation.

Studies also show intestinal damage in animals fed GM foods, including proliferative cell growth9 and disruption of the intestinal immune system.11 

In April 2012, the results of a comprehensive two year study—the first long term feeding study ever performed—were in: feeding Monsanto’s RoundUp-ready corn, as well as “acceptable levels” of RoundUp in drinking water to laboratory rats, was proven to be highly toxic to health.

The results were sobering: treated rats died 2–3 times more often than control rats, and more rapidly. Female rats developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before control rats; their pituitary was the second most disabled organ, and their sex hormonal balance was modified.

Meanwhile male rats suffered from liver congestions, with necrosis occurring 2.5–5.5 times more frequently. They likewise presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than control rats, and these tumors occurred up to 600 days earlier. Biochemistry data confirmed very significant kidney chronic deficiencies for all treatments and both sexes, 76% of the altered parameters were kidney related.

Of course with results this conclusive, Monsanto wasted no time launching an all out “faulty science” campaign via their own PR firms, science “bloggers” (paid articles), and other “science media” organizations founded and supported by Monsanto and its subsidiaries. Their united goal? To find flaws with the study, including “wrong type of rat” and other such claims (even though the study purposefully used the same rats Monsanto used in their quick 3 month feeding trial in order to compare “apples to apples.”

Regardless of which rat was used, the study rats developed tumors much faster than control rats.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases indicates that the biopesticides engineered into GM crops (known as Bacillus Thuringensis / Bt or Cry-toxins), may also contribute to blood abnormalities—from anemia to hematological malignancies (blood cancers) such as leukemia.

The overwhelming results of these studies are consistent: infertility, immune dysregulation (including upregulation of cytokines associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation); accelerated aging; dysregulation of genes; altered structure and function of organs including the liver (altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism as well as cellular changes), kidney, pancreas, spleen and gastrointestinal system; stillbirths and birth defects; sterility; and cancer.

Taken in total, these animal studies represent more than just a coincidental association between GM foods and adverse health effects, with causation in multiple areas including strength of association, consistency, specificity, biological gradient, and biological plausibility10 as defined by Hill’s Criteria.

When you add the data from animal studies to the data from human studies, the result clearly demonstrates a strong biological parallel between genetically engineered food and adverse health effects in humans.

When you compare this data against the health statistics in the U.S., and contrast it to the health statistics from other nations where GMOs are outlawed, there’s an even more disturbing parallel: Americans have the highest rate of cancer of any other country on the planet — 1 out of 2 men, and 1 out of 3 women are expected to get cancer in their lifetime.

1 out of 8 women has breast cancer, and only 1 in 10 of those breast cancers are inherited, which means 9 out of 10 incidences of breast cancers are environmentally triggered.

The United States’ national healthcare costs are likewise far higher than any other developed nation: 16% of our GDP goes towards managing disease.

What sort of diseases have been emerging during the same timeframe that GMOs have gradually become prevalent in over 70% of the food in our grocery stores?

Increase in Food Allergies

While there have been no direct studies of the relationship between GMO crops and allergies (for all of the reasons explained under Section II above), it is significant to note the sudden rise in food allergies during the same time period that GMO crops’ ingredients have become widely used in the majority of our food. (According to a 2005 estimate by the Grocery Manufacturers of America, 75% of all processed foods in the U.S. contain at least one genetically modified ingredient.)

The statistics began mounting in the late 1990s—again, right at the time when GMOs became mainstream in processed and fast food: the majority of children in the US now have life-threatening allergies to corn, milk, peanuts or other related GM foods; peanut allergies alone doubled from 1997 to 2002: 1 out of every 50 children is allergic to peanuts in the United States.

Over the last 10 years (during which GMOs have become widespread in the U.S.), 1 out of every 17 children in the U.S. developed a food allergy, and hospital emergency rooms across the nation experienced a 265% increase in food allergy emergencies.

In April 2013, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 1 out of every 20 children has developed food allergies since the late 1990s; meanwhile a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics has seen incidences as high as 1 out of every 12 children.

Scientists are speculating that by introducing a foreign gene into a plant, it may be creating a new allergen or allergic response in susceptible individuals. Especially now that we know these foreign genes do not “break apart” during the digestion process.

Unfortunately, testing of GM foods to avoid the possibility of harm to consumers with food allergies has not been done. Labeling of GM foods and food that contains GM products has likewise not been done. When individual states try to pass labeling initiatives, Monsanto sues them back into silence. Just ask Vermont and Connecticut

Parallel Increase in Type 2 Diabetes

Over the past seven years, increasing studies are documenting the direct connection between pesticides and a huge spike (as much as 250%) in diabetes. The first study was reported back in 2005 by Japanese scientists, and again in 2008 by the National Institutes of Health; another study by the University of Cambridge corroborated the findings; as did yet another study performed by Stanford University.

By contrast, another study (last paragraph in the article) bolsters the argument: the association between obesity and diabetes was absent in people with low concentrations of pesticides in their blood. Essentially, individuals were more at risk of diabetes if they were thin, with high blood-levels of pesticides, than if they were overweight with low levels of pesticides.

Parallel Increase in Autism

In addition to allergies, another insidious problem is on the rise in our nation’s children: autism.

During the same time period corresponding to the prevalence of GMOs in our processed food — from 1997 to 2008 — the Pediatrics Journal reports a 250% increase in the prevalence of autism in American children — one out of 91 children are now diagnosed with autism.

Once again, there have been no studies linking GMOs to developmental diseases (since studies of GMOs are not happening in the U.S.; see “Emerging Health Risks in Human Studies” below).

However, there have been multiple reports from doctors, several food-related studies, countless autism websites, specific autism diet websites and Facebook pages, a number of books, as well as widespread reports from parents — all of which link diet to autism as “suggested evidence that a dietary theory may be true.”

Coincidentally (or not), the main dietary culprits reported for autism include soy (the #1 GMO crop), milk (much of which still contains rBGH hormone), food starches (most of which are made from GMO corn), and gluten in all of its forms. Despite the mounting reports, one recent study claims there is no such diet corollary. More studies are now underway.

Are all these a coincidence? You decide.

3.     ECONOMIC CONCERNS

Agriculture Subsidies for Food That Makes us Sick

More than 60 percent of all deaths in the U.S. are from diseases linked to unhealthful saturated fat and a cholesterol laden diet: heart disease, cancer, stroke, liver disease, and high blood pressure.

The annual medical cost of obesity reached $147 billion in 2008. The Medicare and Medicaid spending for obesity-related conditions now totals $61 billion per year. Heart disease costs $189.4 billion per year and that cost is expected to triple by 2030. Cancer costs $102.8 billion per year. Diabetes costs $128.1 billion annually.

So why is Congress delegating billions of taxpayer dollars to boost the production of the most unhealthy food — GMO meat, hormone-laced dairy, and sweeteners for processed food — while fruits and vegetables receive almost none?

Especially when the beneficiaries of agricultural subsidies (creatively named ‘The Farm Bill’) are the very same corporations that promote GMO crops and convert these crops into high fructose corn syrup, and GMO feed for the cows and pigs who end up in a McDonald’s wrapper, rather than the organic farmers who are raising more healthy food, healthy soil, and a healthier environment.

Corporate Profits Outweigh Public Health

Bringing a GM food to market is a lengthy and costly process. Agri-biotech companies (and their shareholders) have a vested interest in maximizing profits on their investment by conserving expenses. Without any requirements from the FDA, they have no reason to invest money on pre-market human health safety studies.

Corporate Patents Control Farming

All of the new genetically engineered plant technologies and resulting GM plants and seeds have been patented. Patented seeds cost more, and these costs are controlled by corporations focused on maximizing profits.

As a result, farmers in the US who agreed to a “better future through GMO crops” and signed contracts with Monsanto must pay royalty fees, licensing fees, and trade fees in addition to the higher cost of GMO seeds they are then required to plant on their farm.

And it’s not a one-time cost. The generations-old practice of cleaning and saving a portion of seeds from this year’s crop to be replanted next year? No longer possible… that’s considered illegal patent infringement in Monsanto’s contract.

Farmers are required to buy fresh seed every single year, and new laws against “seed cleaning” businesses are causing these service providers to go out of business — but not before Monsanto obtains their account records in order to track down farmers who are still cleaning and saving seeds.

And if Monsanto seeds happen to contaminate a neighboring farmer’s field? The farmer pays for clean up. It’s not Monsanto’s fault. Ever.

Corporate Patents Control Nations

The higher cost of genetically modified “super seeds” is typically out of the range of what small farmers and third world countries are able to afford, thus widening the gap between wealthy and poor, well-fed and hungry.

Unless of course Monsanto, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Bill and Melinda Gates step in to “gift” GMO seeds to poor nations (via non-profit organization called AGRA) in order to establish that country’s dependence on Monsanto’s “drug” and thus effectively take control of a poorer region’s economic future (not to mention the future of the population’s health).

Lawsuits Force Non-GMO Farmers Out of Business

Farmers who don’t currently use Monsanto’s patented GMO seeds may face unexpected costs when their crops are cross-pollinated from neighboring GMO fields and Monsanto takes them to court for patent infringement (since Monsanto can’t sue the bees and butterflies actually doing the job).

To date, only one farmer in Canada has been able to prevail against Monsanto in the lawsuit they filed against him. A class action lawsuit involving 300,000 individuals, organizations, seed growers, and 4,500 farms against Monsanto was dismissed in court in March of 2012, but an appeal is currently underway. Click on this article to see a complete list of plaintiffs at the bottom of the article.

But farmers aren’t the only ones Monsanto sues. When Vermont and Connecticut tried to label GMOs via state legislative ballot, all Monsanto had to do was threaten a lawsuit to get the ballots removed. Now California citizens have a labeling proposition going to voters in November 2012.

Monsanto is countering by rallying nearly $50 million in anti-label advertising dollars, and that, combined with an ardent citizens’ rebuttal, has created a surge of public awareness. If passed, Proposition 37 will be a monumental step forward in allowing consumers to make informed choices about food, while setting the stage for other states to follow California’s lead.

Ask yourself: why do the world’s top chemical manufacturers want to prevent you from knowing what’s in your food? (This graph was compiled in September 2012; since then the total contributions have surpassed $50 million.)

Additional Sources:

1 Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae (Nature, Vol 399, No 6733, p 214, May 20, 1999)

2 New tools for chloroplast genetic engineering (Nature Biotechnology, Vol 17, No 9, pp 855-856, Sep 1999)

3 Tandem constructs: preventing the rise of superweeds (Trends in Biotechnology, Vol 17, No 9, pp 361-366, Sep 1999)

4 Containment of herbicide resistance through genetic engineering of the chloroplast genome (Nature Biotechnology, Vol 16, No 4, pp 345-348, Apr 1998)

5 Efforts to bioengineer intrinsic resistance to insect pests into crop plants have made use of a natural bacterial toxin, Bt, from Bacillus thuringiensis Berliner (Science, Vol 284, No 5416, p 873, May 1999)

6 Inheritance of Resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis Toxin (Dipel ES) in the European Corn Borer (Science, Vol 284, No 5416, pp 965-967, May 1999)

7 Buffers urged around Bt corn fields (Environmental News Network http://www.enn.com/enn-news-archive/1999/07/071499/btbuffer_4342.asp)

8 GM crops: public perception and scientific solutions (Trends in Plant Science, Vol 4, No 12, pp 467-469, Dec 1999)

9 Smith, JM. Genetic Roulette. Fairfield: Yes Books.2007. p.10

10 Hill, AB. The environment and disease: association or causation? Proceeding of the Royal Society of Medicine 1965; 58:295-300.

11 Finamore A, Roselli M, Britti S, et al. Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON 810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice. J Agric. Food Chem. 2008; 56(23):11533-11539.

12 Malatesta M, Boraldi F, Annovi G, et al. A long-term study on female mice fed on a genetically modified soybean:effects on liver ageing. Histochem Cell Biol. 2008; 130:967-977.

13 Velimirov A, Binter C, Zentek J. Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice. Report-Federal Ministry of Health, Family and Youth. 2008.

14 Ewen S, Pustzai A. Effects of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine.Lancet. 354:1353-1354.

15 Kilic A, Aday M. A three generational study with genetically modified Bt corn in rats: biochemical and histopathological investigation. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2008; 46(3):1164-1170.

16 Kroghsbo S, Madsen C, Poulsen M, et al. Immunotoxicological studies of genetically modified rice expression PHA-E lectin or Bt toxin in Wistar rats. Toxicology. 2008; 245:24-34.


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107 thoughts on “GMO Risks

  1. Pingback: Why We Need GMO Labeling (and how to get it) « GMO Awareness

    • Susie, thank you. The more of us that share this information, the more likely it is that we consumers can begin to take back “real” food and ultimately, better health for ourselves and our earth.

    • Hello! Sorry for the delayed reply, I was out of the country for a while. This article was begun in 2011, and like all of my resource pages and articles, I continue to update each one with newly published research references, links to recent articles containing related information, and corrections as they come to light… so I think it’s about as updated as you can get at the moment! :-)

  2. Pingback: The War Against GMO Labeling « GMO Awareness

  3. Thank you very much for this invaluble information, I will forward to all on my email lists, John Mathwin, Adelaide Australia.

    • Thank you for your link! While that is not the first cancer study on GMOs, it is certainly the longest study ever performed… and with such conclusive results, it’s no wonder Monsanto is doing all that it can to debunk the study protocol!

  4. Pingback: Lisen: GMO? OMG! | Finding (Un)Common Ground

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  6. After struggling with mysterious food allergies for the past 10 years, am finally starting to get it… And it would explain why the food in the UK seems to make me MUCH less sick than the food in the US (since my time is split 50-50 between these two countries). What have humans done to life… ? :-(

  7. Pingback: Monsanto’s Dirty Dozen « GMO Awareness

  8. Pingback: NaturalNews – Paul Fassa – GMOs : We Need To Go Way Beyond Labeling To Keep Any Healthty Food – 17 January 2013 | Lucas 2012 Infos

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  13. *I had heard that gmos create a rough surface on the lining of arteries that causes a faster
    growth of plaque and heart disease. Is this true>

  14. Pingback: GMO’s-What we need to do for healthy food | Daily Wholesome

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  16. This is a wonderfully written article that puts everything I’ve learned about GMO’s in one space. I also learned a few more things I didn’t know.
    Thank you so much for putting this up–I’ve mentioned your blog on mine.

  17. Thank you, that was a very informative article. It will be passed along to all my family members and friends. These mega corps have to be stopped before the life force we as humans need (seeds, fruits and vegetables) is changed forever and lost.

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  23. Can you cite a single case where a person got sick and/or died from eating a GMO product? Not what could possibly happen, but what actually did happen. I know there is the possibility of something bad happening, but based on that logic, the U.S. would most likely be at war with North Korea, Israel would be at war with Iran, no one would have children because they have the possibility of having a disease and/or not surviving, and everyone would be in prison because they could possibly commit a crime.

    • Ben, it took fifty years before the long-term (and very deadly) effects of PCBs were discovered (even though Monsanto knew about it long before then). Just something to think about.

      • What’s sad about Ben’s comment is that it shows that no one really cares until it affects them personally. Recently I have begun paying attention to what types of food are going into my family’s body and what I have found out is astonishing. Even foods that I thought were safe have been now removed from my shopping list. I can hope and pray that others also wise up before it’s too late.

      • That is a good point, but I hope that in 50ish years the government has become more capable of finding problems with products.

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  42. Great article!
    With the possibilty of ingesting genetically engineered foods for 20 years or so- is it possible at all to “cleanse” the body of these toxins from GMO foods? Is our human DNA forever changed because of consuming these foods?

    • Paula, I am no nutritionist, so I can only share with you the frequent comments I’ve seen, both here and on our Facebook page: many people have reported feeling improved health within weeks or months of starting a non-GMO diet. Some of them also reported eliminating glutens, dairy products, and other selected foods at the same time, so this information is purely anecdotal. As for our DNA, to date there have been no specific studies on the impacts to human DNA after long-term consumption of GMOs (there have been no long-term human studies on any aspect of GMOs), however the related studies about genes surviving digestion certainly does cause me concern. It seems we are the experiment…

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  52. I fear that GMO’s, having been released upon us will be like Pandora opening her container of evils and self replicate through insects, winds and human error. It is out there now. How do we stop it. Closing the source, now, is not the answer, though it may slow the spread, so what is?

    • I hear you… cross-contamination is not easily contained once it starts. But shifting the tide is not impossible. Food is manufactured based on what consumers want to buy / what shopping trends support. There is already a shift happening in farmers returning to non-GMO crops, based on the overwhelming growth in the organics industry. Don’t give up yet!

  53. Pingback: Monsanto’s Dirty Track Record In A Rigged System | Out From Under

  54. Is it safe to say that more research needs to be done before we can safely consume GM foods, or is it best to just avoid these products in the future? Also, are there any other pro-GM arguments other than the genes will be digested? Looking to make a good counterargument. Great article by the way!

    • Thanks for two very good questions. As for the first:

      After doing our own research, we strictly avoid GM foods. We encourage you to dig as deeply as you need to to draw your own conclusions. If you haven’t yet read it, check out our “GMOs Defined” page too.

      Reasons for our avoidance:

      1) The top 2 genetically engineered traits in corn and soy are resistance to glyphosate (Monsanto’s RoundUp weedkiller), and resistance to pests (in the form of internal insecticide requiring corn to be labeled by the EPA as an insecticide) — or a “stacked” combination of both traits.

      2) Plants absorb and retain pesticides and herbicides (here’s a recent report we posted about on our Facebook page).

      3) Because pesticides/herbicides are still the focus of genetic engineering, eating GM foods significantly increases exposure to pesticides/herbicides… not to mention foreign DNA from e.coli, bacteria, and viruses (here’s a quick overview we posted on our Facebook page).

      As for your second question:

      The most frequent “pro-GM” argument is that it is impossible to feed the world without genetically engineered crops. The theory is that GM crop yield is significantly more abundant, and this abundance is passed along to the rest of the world.

      After 20 years of genetically engineering crops, this is still not the case. GM crops are not feeding the world, nor are they addressing the other common benefit claims of withstanding drought, or offering more nutrients.

      We wrote about this in more detail here >

      Hope this helps you along your journey of discovery!

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  65. Excellent article. The most thorough, encompassing, and well documented material I have seen on GMOs. Have you considered a book, video, or movie?? As a breast cancer survivor who found out too late, I feel we REALLY need to grab the collective imagination. Then it’s just possible this may crumble like the house of cards that it is. Has anyone also considered that since 1986 virtually ALL vaccines injected into our kids (some 45 now) are also genetically modified? So their own immune system is modified to begin with, then hit again environmental gmos three times a day.( I had one of the first GMO vaccines, Hep B, and developed a very unusual presentation of Guillian Barre Syndrome.) Thanks, Mary Watson, BSN Johns Hopkins 1979

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  67. hello, could you tell me where you got this statistic from?
    “Over 80% of GMO crops are engineered to either 1) resist herbicides — which enables farmers to saturate them with weedkillers during their growth period, in an effort to control the (super)weeds growing in the same fields, or 2) generate their own internal pesticides.”

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