GMOs - be skeptical.

The information surrounding genetically modified (or genetically engineered) organisms can be confusing.  It is important to be skeptical, to be critical, in order to correctly judge risk. The most important questions, if we are considering population well-being, could be:

Will GMO's harm the health of my family?  

Do GMO's help poor countries - do they improve long term agricultural practice, provide good, cheap nutrition and keep local populations healthy?

Technology has helped humanity thrive since we first sharpened a tool. GMOs aren't reversible - so we must ensure that this technology creates long term benefit, rather than cost.  For instance, we can make policy to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons - but GMOs cross pollinate, they mutate - they're not easily stopped.

Technology can be like driving a car -  there can be long term risks, we must do it 'defensively'. In science this is known as the 'precautionary principle'.  

Independent, or public domain scientists, produce scientific studies for the welfare of the public. Independent science wants to know - "Will it cause harm?"  This is their bottom line.

How do GMO's effect us nutritionally? Are they toxic? Do they produce allergens?  

You can find many 'skeptics' on the internet that say that they are independent, and that claim: 'There are thousands of studies for GMO's.' It is really important to be skeptical about the skeptics.

There may be lots of studies performed by corporations when the plants were being developed, but there are much fewer independent studies researching the toxicity and safety of GMOs. Most independent scientists agree - there is simply not enough science to claim that GMOs are safe.

Genuinely independent studies on GM foods and crops are rare, for two reasons: because independent research on GM crop risks is not supported financially; and because industry uses its patent-based control of GM crops to restrict independent research.
— 2014 GMO Myths & Truths 2nd edition - J. Fagan, M. Antoniou, C. Robinson. Earth Open Source.

The European Commission, US Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organisation do not invite independent studies that demonstrate that GMOs cause harm. It is as if a big wall is around these organisations.  Unfortunately, it is these very organisations that governments correspond with to identify whether GMO's and pesticides are safe.

The World Health Organisation's GMO information page - 20 Questions - does not reflect the findings of independent science.  It discusses 'risk assessment' - that it has developed 'protocols for tests'. Within their risk assessment structure their definition of 'risk assessment' may not take into account whether the actual GMO food is allergenic or toxic and whether it has a different nutritional structure.

Long term risks.

Question 5 states: 'No allergic effects have been found relative to GM foods currently on the market'. Please can the WHO reveal these studies and identify who paid for them?  Independent scientists have demonstrated that the timeline for these tests are too short - conventional 90 day studies accepted by the agencies are not long enough to detect serious health effects. The effect of GMOs on the digestive system can be a slow, insidious process.  Independent scientists know that GMO's can irritate the gut wall and affect the immune system. [3]

The Food and Agriculture organisation may have admirable 'strategic objectives', however their stance appears pro-GMO. They ignore the profound problems GMOs raise for many poorer countries. In 2009 IAASTD outlined many of these concerns in the report: Agriculture at a Crossroads. [4]  The simplest ethical point is that these poorer farmers cannot own their own seeds for each generation of new crops, as they have had, since time immemorial. The corporations own the patent. The IAASTD also queries the safety of GMOs:

 "The safety of GMO foods and feed is controversial due to limited available data, particularly for long-term nutritional consumption and chronic exposure".

It can be a head spin. 

What concerns do independent scientists have?

The most extensive fact based information can be found at: 2014 GMO Myths & Truths 2nd edition - John Fagan, Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson. Earth Open Source.

Independent scientists have seen toxic effects on the liver and kidneys, decreased fertility, immune system changes, allergic responses, cancerous effects, changes in the uterus, ovaries, the metabolism, the lining of the gut wall, pancreas function, blood biochemistry, digestive system - and more. 

This seems ridiculous - how can GMO's be blamed for all this?

We all know that food has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years - side by side with us - it's important to recognise that inserting a 'gene cartridge' in a plant, changing the cellular structure, can completely alter the RNA and DNA in that 'food' - but that then changes how that 'altered food' interacts with bodily functions.

How can this happen? GMO's loosely explained by RITE in one paragraph (refer to Myths & Truths for a clear, well researched explanation) :

When scientists insert a cartridge of another gene/s into a plant (thereby making it 'genetically modified'), they can't control exactly where the cartridge ends up. So they may successfully add 'traits' like herbicide tolerance that the corporations actually want, but along with that, scientists inadvertently change the other genetics within the plant - within the cellular structure. The genes express differently wherever that gene ends up. There is no control. This can happen whether the inserted gene is from a completely different plant (transgenic) or a different strain of the same plant (cisgenic). 

Because there is no control - for example, we don't exactly know how the DNA or proteins will change once modified.

Add to these concerns the fact that GMOs (and cereals) contain the highest residues of Roundup of any food.

Most countries have accepted GMOs into their food system. But scientists still don't agree that GMOs are safe. Many farming populations don't want GMOs either.

Scientists have documented the harm facing local populations who farm and live near major pesticide spraying zones - this ranges from malformations to increased cancers. 

But how do GMOs affect you?

Why is there increased incidence of non-communicable illnesses, that are classified as 'unpreventable'? You probably know someone with an allergy or autoimmune disorder. Ask them if they think it was 'normal' to have this disorder in the 1970's or 1980's. If they don't think so, it is time to start asking why is there no independent research into prevention of these allergies and autoimmune disorders. We are researching genetic influence, not environmental elements.

There is usually an environmental trigger that initiates a response for example, autoimmune disease. However, public governments and assessment agencies, the US EPA, European Commission and the World Health Organisation don't tend to fund this type of research. 

Why is there not an allocation by governments and charities for 'prevention' of disease?  The bulk of the focus is on the 'cure' and the genetic predisposition to disease and illness.

GMO's could be considered the major change in diets in the last 20 years.

How does this relate to RITE?

GMO varieties directly increase levels of exposure to Roundup pesticide.

ISAAA statistics to 2012 reveal that of the total international GMO crops [1] - 99% of GMO crops have either the Bt (insecticidal) or herbicide tolerant traits. Of all the GMO crops planted internationally, 84% of these crops have herbicide tolerant traits - they are invented to have higher amounts of herbicides sprayed on them. The primary herbicide is Roundup. 

This research neatly intersects with Charles Benbrook's extensively researched study: Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years. Benbrook confirms that herbicide resistant crop (Eg. Roundup Ready GMO) technology has led to an overall increase in the use of herbicides.  [2] Industry may claim GMO/GE crops reduce herbicide use - this independent study reveals the results.

When GMO herbicide tolerant crops were released they contained one trait - Roundup herbicide tolerance. But as weeds grow resistant, the companies have added other 'stacked' traits - so the one GMO plant can be triple stacked and have Roundup, glufosinate and 2,4-D on it.  Or it may have the Bt insecticidal toxin in it as well as trait resistance to two different herbicides.

Herbicide tolerant crops make more money - corporations own the patented seed line and they profit from pesticide sales.  Please be skeptical - the proof is in the statistics. That's where 99% of money is - in the herbicide tolerant lines.

These herbicide tolerant lines are permitted to have pesticide residue levels higher than humans have previously been exposed to. Because the chemical is on food. Not sprayed on a field.

where the WHO files independent studies

There is not one cumulative toxicity test testing these pesticides together  - held with the US EPA, the World Health Organisation or the European Commission. Not one single study in the world.

It's not emotional or a feeling.  We simply don't have enough science.  No-one knows which extent the problem of inflammation is to do with increased Roundup residues in the food we eat, if it is the GMO food creating the problem, or if it is both. 

How do GMOs and Roundup contribute to intestinal inflammation and increased 'intestinal permeability'? Separately, ie. Roundup OR the GMO toxins - or cumulatively - how do they work together?

There is minimal funding for research.

A significant proportion of illness can be traced back to the gut  - how we process and extract nutrients, how we manage toxins and allergens.

We need more independent science to understand the cause behind the astronomical rise of allergies, autoimmune disease and other diseases including diabetes and 'non-preventable' cancers.

There are key components that trigger autoimmune disease:

  1. Particular genes that are susceptible to an autoimmune disease

  2. A degraded gut wall - loss of 'intestinal barrier function'

  3. Immune system's response to antigens - molecules the immune system would normally recognise, but if not, they are invaders.

  4. The disease is triggered by an environmental factor - the tipping point.

Allergies can happen when food is not broken down properly, but with a weakened gut wall food can pass into blood - the body reacts against it, and triggers an immune response, and we become allergic to it. Independent scientists are starting to understand that GMO's containing the Bt maize may have immunogenic and allergenic properties. Andreassen et al., 2014 Studies like these aren't considered.

As the US EPA defines GMO's as GRAS: 'Generally Regarded as Safe', the USA doesn't look to long term feeding studies to identify systemic risk. Nor does the World Health Organisation or the European Union

Independent scientists want want long term studies, as do paediatricians and doctors that are recommending their clients avoid any potential GMO foods. There is simply not enough research.

Independent scientists want more science - for the benefit of public health and environment.

Can the World Health Organisation insist on safe research?

The only GMO studies involving Roundup/glyphosate held with the WHO in it's toxicological assessment of glyphosate incorporated tests of the metabolites of glyphosate (the first tests since its glyphosate evaluation of 2002) it asked DuPont Corporation (who produce glyphosate based herbicides) to supply the studies. [5]

The WHO does not openly hold any other research regarding GMO's and health.

GMO gut research is a funding 'deadzone' within governments and major pesticide assessment agencies.

Case study: The newest kid on the block - 2,4-D + Roundup + glufosinate on food.

The EPA are releasing a 2,4-D resistant soybean. Many people do not realise this is a stacked product - this soybean can tolerate 2,4-D, glyphosate and glufosinate together on the crop. So over the growing season this product can have more pesticides sprayed on it than any plant has ever had sprayed on it in the history of man.

There are no cumulative studies of any of these pesticides researching combined, end effects - what happens to the body (Eg. neurotoxic effects).  No cumulative studies at all for these pesticides held with the US EPA, the WHO or the European Commission.

Currently cumulative effects are based on the 'mechanism of toxicity' and 2,4-D and glyphosate are excluded as they are conveniently shelved in separate 'mechanism of toxicity' class.

Therefore cumulative studies are not requested or accepted by the US EPA, EU or WHO.

There are no studies held with the US EPA, the WHO or the European Commission of any of these pesticides in the complete, stronger solution that is sprayed on the GMO soybeans.  The 3 agencies only accept studies researching the weaker active chemicals.

Full solution studies are not requested or accepted.

There are no neurotoxic or endocrine studies used to identify safe exposure levels, held with these agencies. 

There are no endocrine studies for the weaker active chemicals of these pesticides held with agencies.

The only studies establishing the ADI/RfD of these chemicals are directly supplied by corporations. The safe exposure level is determined by an inadequate 42 year old study.

The framework of RITE sets in place the mechanisms to investigate all illness related to pesticide use.

Please ask your government - 

  • Why is there no research investigating the effects of GMO food on the gut of children? 
  • Why is there no labelling when the bulk of the population believe these products should be labelled?
  • Why is there not one single study researching the combined effects of the pesticides that can be cumulatively sprayed on these foods?
  • Why is public sector government not listening to independent science that provides overwhelming evidence that GMO foods are unsafe?
  • What is the financial commitment of government into research for non-communicable, environmentally mediated disease?

For extensive independent science based facts  - in the public health interest - regarding GMO's read 2014 GMO Myths & Truths 2nd edition - John Fagan, Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson. Earth Open Source.

RITE does not address the risk of adverse consequences for world ecosystems that actual GMO crops may facilitate. Many scientists and researchers are discussing the potential for systemic risk via the release of GMO's via cross pollination and mutation into plants and animals.

It is a massive topic that involves the science of biology and environment, health, ecosystems, and ethics. 

If we come to understand that GMOs are unsafe - yet we are unable to constrain them - we will have inedible weed species (that are unable to be constrained by traditional herbicides) - prolific throughout nature. Weed species that could look like food.

This is one of the many reasons public domain scientists advocate for the precautionary principle. And why we understand that as long as the US EPA, EU, FAO, WHO and our governments are advocating for GMO crops without funding safe, long term, independent testing, our current evaluation systems for food safety are broken.

RITE

 

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References:

[1] International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech ApplicationsPocket K No. 16: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2012.  Table 3 Dominant Biotech Crops in 2012.

[2] Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years.  C. Benbrook. Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:24  doi: 10.1186/2190-4715-24-24

[3] Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Samsel, A. & Seneff S..
 Interdisciplinary Toxicology. 2013; Vol. 6(4): 159–184 Gut bacteria: Page 163

[4] 2009 IAASTD report: Agriculture at a Crossroads. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, 
Science and Technology for Development.  ISBN 978-1-59726-539-3  McIntyre, Beverly D. 

[4] New Zealand - Pharmac. Pharmaceutical Management Agency. Annual Review 2013. Humira/Adalimumab Page 23.

[5] WHO/FAO JMPR  2011 evaluations. Part II – Toxicological. World Health Organization, 2012. Pp 373-384.

The only glyphosate/GMO studies to be held in the WHO toxicological evaluations is by DuPont. GMO soy bean and maize varieties produce different metabolites to conventional plants. This study confirmed that the metabolites of GMO plants, n-acetyl-glyphosate have no greater toxicity than the metabolites of the parent product glyphosate.