Genetic Roulette: Is GM Food Causing Organ Failure and Lowering Fertility?
London, UK - 9th February 2010, 01:10 GMT
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Genetically Modified (GM) food crops are meant to feed the world's growing population because of their disease and drought resistance. However, the findings that genetically modified corn produced by one of the world's agricultural giants could cause organ failure are being met with obvious concern by food activists and consumers alike. Three types of Monsanto genetically modified corn have come under renewed scrutiny in the light of a new study published in the International Journal Of Biological Sciences (IJBS). This study found that rats ingesting the corn were subject to statistically significant amounts of organ toxicity. These three types -- Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup herbicide-absorbing NK 603 -- have been approved for consumption in the US and several countries in Europe.
GM Corn or Non-GMO Corn?
After analysing the data, the European researchers came to the conclusion: "Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity. ... These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown."
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s website, the agency concludes that genetic engineering that occurred in the maize varieties, MON 810, NK603, MON 863 was not different enough from past approved products and did not need a pre-market review. It would appear that the FDA has relied upon Monsanto's assurances that the company had done adequate testing to ensure safety. It may be recalled that several countries in Europe, such as Germany and France, have banned GM crops, specifically MON 810 after it had been approved for consumption in the European Union.
Genetically Modified Alfalfa
Alfalfa is an unlikely flash point for the controversy over genetically modified crops. It is the favoured feed of dairy cows and cattle as well as a favourite health-food of enthusiasts. However, consumers who ingest GM alfalfa are likely to risk their health; since even the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) admits that, "acute toxicity in mice was observed."
Alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in the US and a key source of dairy forage and hay. The first perennial crop to be genetically engineered, GM alfalfa can regenerate itself from its root-stock. It is open-pollinated by bees. They can cross-pollinate at distances of several miles, spreading patented, foreign DNA to non-GMO and organic crops. As a result, widespread GMO-contamination of organic alfalfa is inevitable.
According to some agricultural experts, GMO food crops are being designed to sell Monsanto's herbicide Roundup and the patented "Roundup Ready" genes now spliced into millions of acres of corn, cotton, soy, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa. A 2009 study showed that, in 13 years, Roundup Ready crops increased herbicide use by 383 million pounds.
A long-term feeding trial commissioned by the Austrian government found mice fed on GM corn or maize had fewer offspring and lower birth rates. One of the studies was a so-called Reproductive Assessment by Continuous Breeding (RACB) trial, in which the same parent generation gave birth to several litters of baby mice. The parents were fed either with a diet containing 33% of GM maize, a hybrid of Monsanto's MON 810 and another variety, and a normal feed mix. The team found changes that were 'statistically significant' in the third and fourth litters produced by the mice given a GM diet. There were fewer offspring, while the young mice were smaller. The Austrian Agency for Health and Nutrition said the group of mice given a diet of genetically engineered corn saw a significant change in fertility.
Consumers often have no way of knowing clearly if they are eating genetically modified food. People around the world including the US are eating corn and corn derivatives that have been genetically modified, which have been banned for being unsafe in some countries including major ones in Europe. There are no laws in many countries including the US requiring companies to label their products if they contain GMOs. Even food labelled "Organic" that is processed with multiple ingredients must only be 95% organic, leaving loopholes for obscure ingredients that are genetically modified to be included.
Mounting evidence shows damage to animals and humans from unlabelled and untested GM foods. GM advocates have argued that given the US population has been eating some types of GM food for more than a decade is proof of its safety. However, new questions are arising in regard to the adequacy of testing and government procedures for the approval of genetically modified foods and feeds.
Most of the research on GM crop safety has been conducted by biotech companies, such as Monsanto, rather than outside independent laboratories. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not done independent testing on the health effects of at least three types of corn that are being eaten in the US and elsewhere, and have instead taken Monsanto's word for the fact that they are safe. Monsanto initially resisted releasing their experimental data to independent researchers. Environmental groups had to sue to get access to it. Once it was released and analysed by one group of scientists, they wrote a study in a journal and found statistically significant amounts of organ failure in the rats in Monsanto's own study.
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