GMO Dangers, Scientific Evidence

By | November 10, 2012

Proposition 37 recently failed in California with 53% of voters choosing to to keep 100% of Californians from knowing if they are eating genetically modified foods. One wonders how this could be when a national CBS News poll found that 87 percent of Americans favor labeling GM ingredients in their food. [ Caroline Cederquist, MD writing on the Huffington Post web site. 1]

The main arguments for not labeling GMOs, as this author understands it, are as follows:

If genetically modified organisms were dangerous they would not be available to the public. Some regulatory agency, presumably the FDA, would have detected problems during their extensive and continual testing and would have prohibited GMO foods. Also, we never hear on the news about anyone dying or even getting sick from GMO poisoning. The debate over GMOs, one might think then, is between emotional but ignorant activists on one hand and rational GM-supporting scientists on the other. Finally, even if they do have a little risk, we need the GMO foods to keep costs down and save the world from starvation.

A quick summary of the rebuttal to the above arguments:

The FDA does not investigate GMO food safety, they only “deregulate” it (legally ignore it), when told by industry experts that it is substantially equivalent to non GMO crops. There is no scientific basis for this claim, however. Equivalence has not been demonstrated with testing.

A number of Americans are dying from diseases which may very well be, in effect, GMO poisoning. For example, an atypical/silent form of celiac disease, was first seen in the Alberta Children’s hospital in 1997, the year GMO Canola was introduced. Celiac disease is a mysterious inability of the small intestine to absorb needed nutrients leading to increased autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and Sjogren syndrome, and also Addison’s disease, Down syndrome, Intestinal cancer, Lactose intolerance, Thyroid disease and Type 1 diabetes.

Professor Don Huber is one rational scientist who in his own words, is “sticking his neck out” because the world needs to know. His research shows that GMOs are reducing, not increasing crop yields.

This weekend I attended a lecture by Dr. Don Huber, Professor Emeritus from Purdue University. Dr. Huber is a soil born disease expert who has been researching crop production, food crop safety and pest control for 55 years. He has a video interview with Dr. Mercola on line (Dec 2, 2011), which is similar to his presentation on November 8, 2012 in Santa Clara.

After his talk, Dr. Huber provided me with a copy of his PowerPoint presentation and I’m sharing it here using the plug-in on the left, including the audio I recorded of his talk.

To understand his points, you first must understand that genetically modified crops contain genes (from bacteria in this case) which allow them to survive herbicides. That is the point of the genetic modification. RoundUp Ready GMO plants can survive the application of RoundUp which kills the other plants around them. Therefore, Dr Huber’s talk about the dangers of GMOs are as much about the dangers of the herbicide. The following is my summary of his lecture, which you may hear on the plug-in on the left.

1) It is not true that we need GMO crops to be able to feed the world. In fact, GMO crops are now performing more poorly than non GMO crops in many cases because they are degraded by the herbicide, allowing previously benign pests to become serious and because other pests have developed immunity.

2) Glyphosate (commonly called Roundup), one of the most widespread herbicides in use today, which persists in the soil for at least 2 years, is a mineral chelator (it traps and deactivates minerals), it regulates growth, is a toxicant, an herbicide and a virulence enhancer as well as being an antibiotic.

3) Glyphosate will not kill a plant that is in sterile soil. This is because the way it kills the plant is by giving it a type of “plant AIDS,” disabling the plant’s immune system by chelating the plant’s minerals, and thus allowing normally non-dangerous microbes to kill the plant.

4) Glyphosate is toxic to normally beneficial organisms: earthworms, nitrogen fixing microbes, organisms that promote plant growth, mycorrhizae (The mycelium of the mycorrhizal fungus allows plants to grow where they would otherwise die because it makes phosphorus available to plant roots in demineralized in soils with a basic pH. – link), and organisms with a bacteria shikimate pathway. ( The biosynthetic sequence employed by plants and bacteria such as E. coli to generate the aromatic amino acids: phenylalanine (Phe), tyrosine (Tyr), and tryptophan (Trp)).

5) Glyphosate does not go away, it remains for the life of the plant and the protective gene reduces nutrient uptake.

6) Nothing in a Roundup Ready plant acts on the glyphosate applied to the plant. The immunity works by giving them an alternative pathway that allows survival of the reduction of minerals that kills the other plants, but they still suffer from reduced nutrient uptake.

7) GMO Roundup Ready crops are less drought tolerant as a result of being damaged by glyphosate.

8) Glyphosate causes low vigor, stunting and slow growth, yellowing, dead spots, bud and fruit abortion, lower yields, lower mineral content, winter kill, sun scald root stunting, and so on.

9) Genes from the GMO crops flow (move from one organism to another) via pollen in the wind to weeds, crops and insects. The modified genes also flow to soil microbes and to intestinal microbes in animals eating the GMO plants.

10) Cattle ranchers are experiencing 40 to 50% of pregnancies being lost (high numbers of spontaneous abortions in cattle), and when young cattle are butchered, their carcasses appear old, making them worth less on the market. Animals fed GMO crops (which have much lower nutrients) are showing premature aging. Both the abortions and the premature aging may be due to unintended hormonal effects of pesticides as well as nutrient deficiency.

11) With GM crops a completely new entity the size of a virus which is filterable, self replicating and has high temperature tolerance. He identified this as being associated with the reproductive failures in cattle. It causes infertility in male and female animals, the death of chicken embryos, and enhances the virulence of other pests. It is not a virus and tests are being done to determine if it has DNA. Dr. Huber speculates that it will be some kind of protein, like a prion, not necessarily a new life form.

12) Retaliatory action has occurred against researchers who investigate problems with GMOs and those in the US who might want to research this new entity would be and have been shut down by their departments. Researchers lose their jobs and have their careers ended by investigating real food dangers of GMOs.

As far as I know, no data has been published from any long term study of GMO corn other than this one:

The French team has released shocking images of tumours in mice caused by exclusively eating GM corn. However, the research has been criticised as being of Rats fed a lifelong diet of one of the bestselling strains of genetically modified corn suffered tumours and multiple organ damage, according to a controversial French study published today.

Scientists said the results raised serious questions about the safety of GM foods and the assurances offered by biotech companies and governments.

The first lifetime trials involving rats fed on GM corn found a raised incidence of breast tumours, liver and kidney damage.

  • French team claim bestselling brand of GM corn caused tumours and multiple organ damage
  • Leading scientists have questioned the study and its results, claiming it has ‘no value’

The French team has released shocking images of tumours in mice caused by exclusively eating GM corn. However, the research has been criticised as being of ‘no value’ by other scientists

Dr Michael Antoniou, a molecular biologist at King’s College, London, and an expert on GM foods, said: ‘It shows an extraordinary number of tumours developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals. I am shocked by the extreme negative health impacts.’

The research was carried out by Caen University in France, and has been peer reviewed by independent scientists to guarantee the experiments were properly conducted and the results are valid. …

On September 19, 2012, a team led by Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen published a study called “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize” in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.[1] The study acknowledged “major support” from the Association CERES, the Foundation “Charles Leopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l’Homme,” the French Ministry of Research, and CRIIGEN. According to the study, there have been previous studies that led researchers to believe that consuming Roundup Ready crops, including residual amounts of the glyphosate (Roundup) sprayed on them, could lead to health problems.

“Detailed analyses have revealed alterations in kidney and liver functions that may be the signs of early chronic diet intoxication, possibly explained at least in part by pesticide residues in the GM feed (Séralini et al., 2007; Spiroux de Vendômois et al., 2009). Indeed, it has been demonstrated that R [Roundup] concentrations in the range of 103 times below the MRL [maximum residual level] induced endocrine disturbances in human cells (Gasnier et al., 2009) and toxic effects thereafter (Benachour and Seralini, 2009), including in vivo (Romano et al., 2012). After several months of consumption of an R-tolerant soy, the liver and pancreas of mice were affected, as highlighted by disturbances in sub-nuclear structure (Malatesta et al., 2008a, 2002a,b). Furthermore, this toxic effect was reproduced by the application of R herbicide directly to hepatocytes in culture (Malatesta et al., 2008b).

The study acknowledges that “long-term and multi-generational animal feeding trials have been performed with some possibly providing evidence of safety, while others conclude on the necessity of further investigations because of metabolic modifications (Snell et al., 2011)” but adds that “none of these studies have included a detailed followup of the animals with up to 11 blood and urine samples over 2 years, and none has investigated the NK603 R-tolerant maize.”[1]

Dr. Huber said Seralini is being strongly attacked, but his study was done well.
“700 scientists and academicians have signed petitions calling on French researcher Gilles-Eric Seralini to release research data he claims is evidence for health problems associated with biotech crops. The petitioners are from every continent and represent more than 40 countries. They are urging transparency in the promotion of sound science on important issues of public health and join calls by regulatory bodies including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to Seralini and his collaborators at the Committee for Research&Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN) to provide the research data to back up their allegations of health and safety risks links to GMOs.” –
The arguments against this study should be considered, if substantive.
One complaint which did not impress me as substantive about the Seralini study by Hank Campbell is that it was too long. Deadly effects of GMOs may take years to develop, yet, “for humane reasons [not wanting the rats to suffer, I presume] this study would not have been given approval in the UK”. I’m surprised that rat well-being is so important in the UK. So, important that human life might be sacrificed to preserve it?
“Other problems were evident right away; namely the line of rats they chose and the duration of the study. The Sprague-Dawley rats they chose for this study was not by chance, especially considering that Séralini wanted to prove harm and said 90-day studies were the issue in why no harm has been found – so they went out of their way to pick rats bound to get cancer and kept them eating well beyond the 90-day adulthood period for rats. 2 years is a long time for rats but for the specific line of rats they chose, two years is a really long time, especially for rats known to get this cancer, especially when the food is not limited and that is known to be a risk factor for tumors. Such a long time that “for humane reasons this study would not have been given approval in the UK”. – science20
The second point is that these rats get cancer anyway and two years is a really long time for these rats to live. They do live on average about two years, but some can live for three years, so a two year old rat is more like a 76 year old American, or a 65 year old human if you consider the average lifespan of all humans on the planet right now. Gilles-Eric Séralini, however, was aware that Sprague-Dawley develop spontaneous tumours.
Read the full study yourself (available on the left along with the Huber’s presentation.) The study was peer reviewed and the spontaneous tumor rate was not ignored.
Regarding human effects of the herbicide used on GMO crops, we must also note that Roundup includes various secret chemicals which help glyphosate get into plant cells. A recent 2012 study found cell death and DNA damage to human epithelial cells.
“Roundup induced clear, dose-dependent, damage to the cell, including disruption of outer membranes and the mitochondria (membranous structures inside all cells which produce their energy), gross DNA and nuclear changes (the nucleus is also membrane-bound), and cell death. Glyphosate on its own was less potent, but was found to cause measurable cell-membrane damage, cell nuclear disruption and cell death. – Koller V. J., et al., 2012, Cytotoxic and DNA-damaging properties of glyphosate and Roundup in human-derived buccal epithelial cells, Archives of Toxicology, 14.02.12″ –
The Koller study states, “Recent findings indicate that G exposure may cause DNA damage and cancer in humans.” and “Since we found genotoxic effects after short exposure to concentrations that correspond to a 450-fold dilution of spraying used in agriculture, our findings indicate that inhalation may cause DNA damage in exposed individuals.”
If glyphosate in GMO crops is killing and mutating mouth epithelial cells, it is likely doing the same to the epithelial cells of the small intestine. This is highly troubling since those cells in our gut mediate the entire body’s immune response.
Intestinal epithelial cells are the cell boundary between the external environment and tissues of the gastrointestinal tract. From this interface the epithelial cells have evolved processes that help guide whether inflammation or an immune response will occur in the intestines. Indeed intestinal epithelial cells are active participants in the inflammatory and immune response because they (1) secrete inflammatory mediators, including cytokines, when they detect certain microbes; (2) secrete mediators when they become detached from the basement membrane; (3) recruit and engage dendritic cells, professional antigen-presenting cells which sample the intestinal lumen prior to presenting antigens to lymphocytes and (4) directly present antigens to T lymphocytes using a unique repertoire of molecules. Antigen presentation to lymphocytes is required for the initiation of a specific adaptive immune response, whether humoral (antibody) or cellular, and may be key to explaining many human chronic inflammatory diseases. – Intestinal Epithelial Cells: Immunological Aspects. – link

8 thoughts on “GMO Dangers, Scientific Evidence

  1. Michael

    Two-year rat studies always run into the high dose/short term vs. low dose/long term problem. Since we cannot routinely afford long, prospective studies, we often expose animals under the following premise: high dose exposure for short periods mimics low dose exposure for long periods. Probably not true and we really don’t know which way the trend works or if it is different for various chemicals. We tend to err on the side of being conservative, so any acute effects are taken to suggest long term outcomes.

    For the hospital data, you have to ask yourself if anything changed with respect to diagnosis of atypical celiac disease? Did the clinicians use the same procedure for diagnosis during the timespan indicated on the figure? If it was the same method, was there a push, either in their hospital or in their field, to increase vigilance regarding this disease variant? All these things (and others) need to be accounted for prior to making any definitive statements. Just my 2 cents.

    1. Xeno Post author

      New food labels are printed frequently, so there is no nightmare. You really voted to keep everyone from finding out if HFCS made from GMO corn is making people sick?

      1. arjay001

        If the label says “This product contains GMO and may be harmful to you health”, people may choose the one labeled “NO GMO”. The nightmare would be the impact on sales. What if this labeling went nation wide someday. The issue effects every business that profits from the sale of GMO labeled products. The farmers, chemical companies, food producers, drug companies, wall street…(list goes on). Thats a lot of pressure/money on the side of insuring the vote fails.

        1. Xeno Post author

          I’m a capitalist who also cares about human rights and optimal health. If you make a product that tastes good and is good for people, it should sell well. If your product makes people sick it can go to hell. If you try to cover up ingredients in a product that makes people sick to make a buck or keep people from even discovering if a particular ingredient is making them sick, then your product can go to hell and you should be on trial for potentially endangering the public. Adequate long term testing of GMOs has not been done.

        2. Xeno Post author

          Anyway, “and may be harmful to your health” was NOT part of the labeling requirement in prop 37. The requirement in the text of the law is for the words “genetically engineered” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering” to appear. So, if you think GMOs are safe, this is not even a “warning” of any kind, just a statement of fact about the ingredients. Let consumers have a choice was my vote.

          I think there was vote fraud on this one, that the real vote was in favor of 37. I want a recount.

    1. Xeno Post author

      Giving it a quick skim, nothing in this letter to the editor convinces me that the Séralini GMO study was flawed. It first makes the point that there could be a conflict of interest. This is quite funny considering the conflicts of interest with Monsanto’s studies on GMO safety, including some criminal activity and also because Erio Barale-Thomas works for Johnson&Johnson Pharmaceutical R&D (Beerse, Belgium) which was sold several brands including Motrin and Cortaid by a Monsanto company (see ). Monsanto is, of course, the company most likely to be financially damaged by the study results if GMOs are sickening and killing people years before their time. A second claim is that allowing the animals to live as long as they did is unethical. This is an attack used to hide the dangerous results of a product that only shows up in long term studies. Is it not more unethical to kill people slowly with GMO products? The letter also attacks a straw man by saying they expect to see characterization of a dose–response relationship with carcinogenic effects of a chemical, but GMOs haven’t been caught because they cause low level unpredictable DNA damage that takes years to show up. GMOs are designed to allow more spraying with pesticides like Glyphosate ( ), so you have to look at those dangers with GMOs as well. Glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer directly as far as we know, but what it does is trap minerals, disabling the immune systems of plants and animals so that, over time, previously non-dangerous microbes become killers. In a sterile environment, a weed sprayed with Roundup won’t be harmed. In the real world where we “rats” don’t have sterile lab food and where we live out our full lives, are we as immune to that poison? Who has the money, without any conflict of interest, to study the causal relationship (or disprove the Seralini study as biased with too small a sample size?) How about this: Label our foods as genetically modified if they are! Then we can each decide what and whom we trust.

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