by Lisa Garber,
The genetically modified crop soybean grown on 91 percent of US soybean fields is repeatedly attributed to devastating reproductive and birth defects in animal studies. Nevertheless, the powers that be—in both the private and public spheres—continue to allow Americans to shovel GMO soy onto their dinner tables.
Rats Fed GMO Soy Experience Reproductive Difficulties, Hairy Mouths
Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov and his team fed three generations of hamsters varying diets (one without soy, one with non-GM soy, one with GMO soy, and the final with higher amounts of GMO soy). By the third generation, the pups from the fourth group suffered a high mortality rate and most of the adults were infertile or sterile.
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Earlier in 2010, Surov co-authored a paper in Doklady Biological Sciences, recording the incidence of hair growing in recessed pouches in the mouths of hamsters, most prominently in those of third-generation hamsters fed GM soy. “This pathology may be exacerbated by elements of the food that are absent in natural food, such as genetically modified (GM) ingredients (GM soybean or maize meal) or contaminants (pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, etc.).”
Just five years earlier, Irina Ermakova (also with the Russian National Academy of Sciences) noted in her study that within three weeks, over half of the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died—over five times the mortality rate in the non-GMO soy control group. The pups from the GM group were also smaller. Later, Ermakova fed all the rats in her laboratory a GM soy diet. Two months later, the infant mortality rate reached 55 percent. The testicles of male rats fed a GM diet, where once pink, turned blue.
Both Farmers and the Environment Suffering
GMO studies with troubling results are cropping up worldwide. The Austrian government released a study in 2008 that found that mice fed GM corn produced fewer and smaller babies than those fed a non-GM diet. Everyday farmers—like Jerry Rosman—are even beginning to notice that US pigs and cows fed GM diets are becoming sterile. Even corncob bedding could be partly to blame for strange reproductive habits (or rather, the lack of such habits) in rats, as discovered by Baylor College of Medicine researchers. They also found that the GM corn material contained compounds that curtailed male sexual behavior, stopped the sexual cycle in females, and contributed to breast and prostate cancer call growth in cultures.
We need only to look at nature to see the devastation GMOs and Big Ag wreck. The environment cries out in the form of polluted water, resistant insects, and ravaged crops and low yield over time.
What Skeptics are Saying
Like the other studies listed here, Surov’s met a storm of criticism—sometimes even rightfully so.
In reference to another GM study, Mark Tester, a research professor at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the University of Adelaide asks, “If the effects are as big as purported, and if the work really is relevant to humans, why aren’t the North Americans dropping like flies? GM has been in the food chain for over a decade over there—and longevity continues to increase inexorably.”
Sadly, North Americans are dropping like flies. Well, sort of. Genetically modified foods and related technology, like Monsanto’s Roundup, are quite often linked to significant organ disruption, sterility, impotence, and even obesity, one of the American public’s weightiest topics. While the contributors to those conditions, even in animal studies, can hardly be attributed to GMOs alone, they should not so eagerly be cast out of consideration.
In fact, Surov himself warns against jumping to conclusions. “It is quite possible that the GMO does not cause these effects by itself,” but may also be influenced by the herbicide Roundup (found in greater levels in Roundup Ready GM crops).
To be fair, many critics of these studies have reasonable points. There are factors in Surov’s and others’ studies worth scrutinizing, such as the breed and strain of animal used. King’s College London’s head of nutritional sciences research division, Tom Sanders, notes that Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen—in a French study that found rats fed Roundup-doused GMOs or given water contaminated with Roundup died earlier than those on other diets—didn’t provide data on how much the rats were fed. “This strain of rat is very prone to mammary tumors particularly when food intake is not restricted.” Moreover, David Spiegelalter of the University of Cambridge criticized Seralini’s control arm of the study, in which most subjects also developed tumors.
But even with the criticism, it doesn’t change the fact that GMOs are simply not proven safe by any means, and are being approved for human consumption prematurely.
Both Parties Guilty of Bad Science
Statistics can be turned and science performed badly, but this sword has two edges. The very scholars, researchers, and scientists accusing Seralini, Surov, and Ermakova of bad science are often guilty of advocating the widespread cultivation and consumption of genetically modified material after nodding at or performing themselves 90-day trials, assuming that the absence of side effects in what isn’t even a generation for a rat is evidence of safety in lifetime consumption by humans. Many, no doubt, are patted on the back for speaking against anti-GM movements by Big Agriculture and even the US government, repeated found deep in bed with industry.
It’s not like Big Ag and the government are making it easy to believe them when they say GMOs are safe to eat. Here are just a few examples of their sketchy past.
- Monsanto bought out a research firm that pointed its finger at herbicides in colony collapse.
- Processed food manufacturers and GMO firms contributed millions of dollars against GMO food labeling in Proposition 37, and were helped out by the Food and Drug Administration…
- Which makes sense because, once-VP and lawyer of Monsanto is the chief commissioner of foods at the FDA. He was also a US Department of Agriculture commissioner.
In Ermakova’s case, mysterious hands burned paper on her desk and stole samples from her laboratory; her boss, under pressure from his superior, told her to stop researching GMOs. Patents on GMOs and contracts forced upon farmers make it even more difficult to perform studies unless paid for by Big Ag itself.
“We have no right to use GMOs until we understand the possible adverse effects, not only to ourselves but to future generations as well,” says Surov. “We definitely need fully detailed studies to clarify this. Any type of contamination has to be tested before we consume it, and GMO is just one of them.”
Read more: Natural Society
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by APRIL McCARTHY,
The tomato was one of the first commercially available genetically modified (GM) crops. In 1994, GM tomatoes hit the market in the US but have since disappeared. They’re about to make a come back at a grocery near you.
Earlier forms of this GM crop included the transgenic tomato (FlavrSavr) which had a “deactivated” gene. This meant that the tomato plant was no longer able to produce polygalacturonase, an enzyme involved in fruit softening. The premise was that tomatoes could be left to ripen on the vine and still have a long shelf life, thus allowing them to develop their full flavour. Normally, tomatoes are picked well before they are ripe and areÂ then ripened artificially.
These GM tomatoes, however, did not meet their expectations. Although they were approved in the US and several other countries, tomatoes with delayed ripening have disappeared from the market after peaking in 1998.
Today, tomatoes are being genetically modified to produce a peptide that mimics the actions of HDL cholesterol that biotechnology groups are promoting to supposedly reduce heart disease.
Led by Dr Alan Fogelman from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), USA, his study found that consumption of GM tomatoes resulted in reductions of plaque build-up in arteries (atherosclerosis).
“To our knowledge this is the first example of a drug with these properties that has been produced in an edible plant and is biologically active when fed without any isolation or purification,” said Fogelman.
The rollout into major grocery retailers is expected, however no timeline has been established until more research is completed.
The UCLA team genetically engineered tomatoes to produce 6F — a small peptide that mimics the action of ApoA-1, which is the main protein of high density lipoprotein (HDL) or ‘good’ cholesterol.
Fogelman and his team fed the tomatoes to mice that lack the ability to remove low density lipoprotein (LDL) or cholesterol from their blood, and therefore develop inflammation and atherosclerosis when consuming a high-fat diet.
Similar gene modification techniques were devised in GM crops that led to tumors in a long-term widely publicized study on GM corn fed rats.
“The problem remains as with all GM techniques, that we simply don’t know what the long-term effects of consuming such foods will be since short-term studies can never tell us,” said researcher and geneticist Professor Thomas Tranter.
There are many other biotech projects aiming to enrich tomatoes with substances that may offer health benefits which claim to be more nutritious, however no human or long-term studies are planned to discover their effects on metabolism.
Monsanto developed tomatoes that delayed ripening by preventing the production of ethylene, a hormone that triggers ripening of fruit. Although the tomatoes were briefly tested in the marketplace, patent arguments forced its withdrawal.
Tomatoes (along with potatoes, bananas and other plants) are also being investigated as vehicles for delivering edible vaccines. Clinical trials have been conducted on mice using tomatoes that stimulate antibody production targeted to norovirus, hepatitis B, rabies, HIV and anthrax.
Korean scientists are looking at using the tomato to expressing a vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease. Hilary Koprowski, who was involved in the development of the polio vaccine, is leading a group of researchers in developing a tomato expressing a recombinant vaccine to SARS.
Although GM foods can only be planted in many countries as part of a trial, and even then only under strict conditions, millions of hectares of the crops have already been planted in the Americas.
Campaigners have warned that there is no compulsory labelling of meat or dairy products from animals which have been fed on GM crops, and that any long-term problems from eating the foods is still unknown.
The most recent proposition 37 for GM labeling in California was tossed out in a controversial yet official State ballot which lost 53% of the votes.
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.
Find out more at: Prevent Disease
The promise by Monsanto and producers of genetically modified crops was that farmers could use less chemicals and produce a greater yield. That’s about as true as by Natasha Longo
honesty in politics. A study published this week by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook finds that the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops — cotton, soybeans and corn — has actually increased.
This counterintuitive finding is based on an exhaustive analysis of publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service. Benbrook’s analysis is the first peer-reviewed, published estimate of the impacts of genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant (HT) crops on pesticide use.
It is confirming earlier US government data showing that in the US, GM crops have produced an overall increase, not decrease, in pesticide use compared to conventional crops. Not only that promises of greater yields are also unfounded.
GM crops have not increased the yield potential of any commercialised crops. In fact, studies show that the most widely grown GM crop, GM soya, has suffered reduced yields.
A report that analyzed nearly two decades worth of peer reviewed research on the yield of the primary GM food/feed crops, soybeans and corn (maize), reveals that despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase US crop yields. The author, former US EPA and US FDA biotech specialist Dr Gurian-Sherman, concludes that when it comes to yield, “Traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering hands down.”
In the USDA study, which appeared in the the open-access, peer-reviewed journal “Environmental Sciences Europe,” Benbrook writes that the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory in herbicide use. Marketed as Roundup and other trade names, glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds. Approximately 95 percent of soybean and cotton acres, and over 85 percent of corn, are planted to varieties genetically modified to be herbicide resistant.
Atrazine is the second-most widely used herbicide in the U.S. More than 75 million pounds of it are applied to corn and other crops, and it is the most commonly detected pesticide contaminant of groundwater, surface water and rain in the U.S.
Men exposed to high amounts of the substance are far more likely than men with less contact to have diluted or deformed and sluggish sperm. Each of the semen problems can reduce the ability of sperm to reach and fertilize an egg and could make conception harder.
“Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,” Benbrook said.
Data from the US Department of Agriculture indicate that the use of glyphosate on major crops went up by more than 15 fold between 1994 and 2005. The EPA estimated in 2000-2001 that 100 million pounds of glyphosate are used on lawns and farms every year, and over the last 13 years, it has been applied to more than a billion acres.
It did not take long for glyphosate-resistant weeds to appear, just as weeds resistant to every herbicide used in the past had appeared. The Weed Science Society of America reported nine weed species in the United States with confirmed resistance to glyphosate; among them are strains of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), common waterhemp (Amaranthus rudis), giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida), hairy fleabane (Conyza bonariensis), horseweed (Conyza canadensis), Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense), rigid ryegrass (Lolium rigidum), and palmer pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri).
The annual increase in the herbicides required to deal with tougher-to-control weeds on cropland planted to GE cultivars has grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90 million pounds in 2011.
Herbicide-tolerant crops worked extremely well in the first few years of use, Benbrook’s analysis shows, but over-reliance may have led to shifts in weed communities and the spread of resistant weeds that force farmers to increase herbicide application rates (especially glyphosate), spray more often, and add new herbicides that work through an alternate mode of action into their spray programs.
Natasha Longo has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.
Find out more: Prevent Disease