There has been much debate about the safety of genetically modified, or GM, foods since they were first put on the market in the early ‘90s. The industry has stood by its claim that any potentially harmful chemicals from pesticides added to crops—like soybeans, canola and corn—would pass through the body with ill-effect.
However, the results of a study published earlier this month add more fuel to the fire that the consumption of GM foods is more dangerous than suspected. These findings reveal that toxins from pesticides used on GM foods are showing up in the bloodstreams of women and unborn babies.
The study, conducted in eastern townships of Quebec, revealed that traces of the chemicals were found in 93 per cent of blood samples taken from the dozens of pregnant women and 80 percent of samples taken from umbilical cords.
According to the British publication, The Telegraph, it appeared that chemicals were being passed into the body through the ingestion of meat, milk and eggs from farm livestock fed GM corn.
Why is this so concerning to those of us in America? A significant number of our farms grow genetically engineered seed for the only crops that can survive these very same pesticides. GM corn that contains these toxins is, in turn, fed to livestock that we also consume.
Not only are Americans getting toxins through vegetables and plants, but through meat and dairy products as well.
What exactly is GM food and why are we growing and consuming it in the first place? The DNA of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is altered in a way that does not occur in nature. Selected individual genes can be transferred from one organism into another, as well as between non-related species. This is how GM plants are created, which are then used to grow GM crops.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the initial aim of developing GM plants was to improve crop protection. GM crops are designed to be resistance to plant diseases caused by insects or viruses and/or to have increased tolerance to the type of pesticides called herbicides.
It was previously claimed that these toxins were destroyed in the digestive tract of the animals that consumed GM products. However, a 2010 article in The Huffington Post reported a study released by International Journal of Biological Sciences, linking the GM corn of the bio-agricultural and chemical giant Monsanto to organ damage in rats. Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the “two major diet detoxification organs,” stated the IJBS. Effects on the heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were frequently noted as well.
In response to the IJBS findings, Monsanto conducted a 90-day study, too short to assess chronic problems, found the crops safe for consumption. The response from IJBS: “Our study contradicts Monsanto conclusions because Monsanto systematically neglects significant health effects in mammals that are different in males and females eating GMOs, or not proportional to the dose. This is a very serious mistake, dramatic for public health.”
Indeed numerous sources assert that much of the global research used to demonstrate the safety of GM crops has been funded by the industry itself.
Industry companies claim there biotech crops are as wholesome, nutritious and safe as conventional crops. However, there have been other studies to suggest this isn’t necessarily the case.
WHO cites the danger of GM crops solely approved for feed for use in products for human consumption. In one high profile case in 2002, StarLink corn, by Aventis Crop Sciences, was approved for animal feed, but found in Taco Bell taco shells. Twenty-eight people reported allergic reactions after eating these corn products. At that time, Central African nations refused to accept aid containing StarLink corn, and the Southern farmers suffered great economic loss.
According to SourceWatch.com, the first commercially grown GM crop, FlavrSavr tomato, considered bland in taste, led to stomach lesions in female rats. Arpad Pusztai, PhD, a leading expert in GM food safety assessments said the crop “could lead to life-endangering hemorrhage,” particularly in the elderly.
Also concerning is research presented earlier this year by Purdue University’s Emeritus Professor Don M. Huber. As reported in February in The Huffington Post, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GM crops contain “an organism, previously unknown to science,” which can cause miscarriages in farm animals.
This most recent Canadian study strikes such a chord because chemicals intended to kill pests on crops are making their way to the womb and unborn children. While the effect of this is still unclear, the British publication, The Daily Mail, says there is speculation that blood toxicity “could lead to allergies, miscarriage, abnormalities or even cancer.”
Unlike the European Union, Japan and Australia, the United States and Canada do not require the labeling of GM foods. The implication of this to American consumers: We could be ingesting GM foods and not even know it. Thus, pesticide toxins could also be making their way into our bloodstream, and we would have no way to trace it unless our bodies began showing signs of poor health. Scary thought, no?
Stay tuned next week for discussion on the lively debate surrounding organic and non-organic foods.