Genetically modified corn causes organ damage?

Genetic modification of corn plants usually involves the addition of a gene that will either make the plant resistant to a herbicide that will be sprayed on it or cause the plant to produce a pesticide that will kill crop-damaging pests. 

Monsanto, an agriculture and biotechnology corporation, sells 90% of the world’s genetically modified (GM) seeds.1 Monsanto lost a court case in Europe and were forced to hand over their data from a 3-month feeding study they had performed on rats using three varieties of their GM corn. 

A group of French researchers following up their similar 2007 study re-examined Monsanto’s data using different statistical analyses. The researchers did find some differences between GM corn fed rats and and controls rats using their chosen analyses – most of these changes implied altered kidney or liver function, which could indicate toxicity. 2

The question is – how relevant are these changes? Do they really translate into toxicity in humans? We can’t really know yet. Even the authors of the study stress that the parameters measured are ‘signs of toxicity’ but not ‘proof of toxicity’. Additional longer studies will need to be done to clarify these findings and determine whether GM corn varieties are safe. 

The deletion or addition of one gene can change the expression of hundreds or even thousands of other genes, making the genetically modified plant quite different from the original. We don’t know for sure if GM corn is dangerous, but based on the physiological changes that took place in this study, it might be dangerous.

Most of the GM corn that is produced in the U.S. is consumed by farmed animals like cattle and pigs, not by humans. But if GM corn is damaging to the health of these animals, how does this affect the humans that eat them? Also some ingredients in processed foods like high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, and soy products can potentially be from GM sources (if not labeled organic). We can make a conscious decision not to consume GM foods by avoiding meat and processed foods that contain GM corn or soy ingredients. 

 

 

References:

1. Wikipedia: Monsanto http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto

2. de Vendômois JS et al. A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health. 2009; 5(7):706-726

 

United States Set to Block Genetically Modified Food...

The Office of the Inspector General, which audits various branches of the government, has warned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to closely monitor genetically modified (GM) foods coming from foreign countries. Meaning, the U.S. may block GM crops, animals and rice imported from countries such as China, India and Brazil, where research on genetically modified foods has intensified; via NewScientist.

But just last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration praised genetically modified animals. And will NOT require meat from GM animals to be labeled for consumers. I guess there’s a double-standard. American-made food monstrosities are exempt.

We love futzing with nature. Do we really need food coloring made from crushed beetles and pigs engineered to produce omega-3 fatty acids! Yuck.

Image credit: Briebanofsky

Green-News: Tuesday 1.27.09

  • The economy is suffering. And unemployment is rising. But green jobs are expected to boom, such as farmers, CSA coordinators, recyclers, conservation biologists and solar power installers. Currently, the solar industry employs over 25,000 workers, but it could leap to 110,000 by 2016; via FastCompany.
  • Speaking of community supported agriculture. There are plenty of reasons to eat local! Locally grown food tastes better, retains more nutrients, contains no genetically modified organisms, promotes genetic diversity, and is better for the environment and preserves open spaces; from Green Living Review.
  • Now, despite out obvious recession, interest in green products continues to grow. A new survey of 9,000 consumers revealed shoppers deliberately bought more green products in 2008 than any year before. In 2007, 32% of people sought green products, but in 2008 it increased to 34%; ENN reports.
  • Under the new administration, government officials are hopeful the "Bigger Better Bottle Bill" has its first real shot at becoming law. The legislation would impose a nickel deposit on non-carbonated beverage containers and invest unredeemed deposits into state cleanup programs; The Post-Standard explains.

Image credit: Dog Company

FDA Cracks Down on Crushed Beetles in Food

Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth. Apparently food producers have been grinding up bugs to make food colorings for years! Beetles are a source of carmine or cochineal extract, which makes red, pink, orange and purple. And there’s been very little restriction on its use. A spokes person for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has lobbied to get carmine banned, said there is no way to tell how many products contain the dyes, it can be anything red. The FDA has decided to act now, due to reports of allergic reactions, requiring manufacturers to list carmine or cochineal in the ingredients; The Palm Beach Post reports.

Sounds yummy! There’s actually a big obsession with cramming bug parts into our food. Recently, Greenpeace unveiled a series of advertisements, featuring green onions shaped like spiders, scorpion carrots and peapod grasshoppers, to raise awareness for genetically modified ingredients in food.

Not to mention, a previous experiment showed rats fed genetically engineered corn developed signs of liver and kidney toxicity after 3 months. The corn contained a compound to repel insects.