GM Crops and the Rat Digestive Tract: Is GM Food Safe for Animals and Humans?

Global Research
by I.M. Zdziarski,  J.W. Edwards,  J.A. Carman , J.I. Haynes

ABSTRACT

The aim of this review is to examine the relationship between genetically modified (GM) crops and health, based on histopathological investigations of the digestive tract in rats. We reviewed published long-term feeding studies of crops containing one or more of three specific traits: herbicide tolerance via the EPSPS gene and insect resistance via cry1Ab or cry3Bb1 genes. These genes are commonly found in commercialised GM crops.


Our search found 21 studies for nine (19%) out of the 47 crops approved for human and/or animal consumption. We could find no studies on the other 38 (81%) approved crops.


Complete study at ScienceDirect.


Fourteen out of the 21 studies (67%) were general health assessments of the GM crop on rat health. Most of these studies (76%) were performed after the crop had been approved for human and/or animal consumption, with half of these being published at least nine years after approval. Our review also discovered an inconsistency in methodology and a lack of defined criteria for outcomes that would be considered toxicologically or pathologically significant.


In addition, there was a lack of transparency in the methods and results, which made comparisons between the studies difficult. The evidence reviewed here demonstrates an incomplete picture regarding the toxicity (and safety) of GM products consumed by humans and animals. Therefore, each GM product should be assessed on merit, with appropriate studies performed to indicate the level of safety associated with them. Detailed guidelines should be developed which will allow for the generation of comparable and reproducible studies. This will establish a foundation for evidence-based guidelines, to better determine if GM food is safe for human and animal consumption.

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excerpts

Have enough studies been conducted to adequately state that GM crops are safe for human and animal consumption?

Genetically modified crops have been approved for human and animal consumption for nearly 20 years (Clive and Krattiger, 1996) yet the debate about their safety continues. Fifty-three crops are known to possess at least one of the genes investigated in this review (herbicide tolerance via the EPSPS gene and insect resistance via the cry1Ab or cry3Bb1 genes). Forty-seven of these crops have been approved for animal and/or human consumption, yet published toxicity studies could be found for only nine of these crops (19%) ( Table 1). Of greater concern is that for eight of these crops, publications appeared after the crop had been approved for human and/or animal consumption. We understand that other studies may exist that are commercial in confidence, but these studies are not accessible to the scientific community. Other than the few studies mentioned in the EFSA reports, where histopathological results were not reported, our review of the published literature wasn’t able to identify or locate any reported safety evaluations performed on rats on these eight crops prior to their approval. Our literature review also did not identify or locate published reports on rats for the remaining 38 crops.

The present review limited the search to only include feeding studies done on rats so that the results may be comparable. It is possible that more studies may be found if the search were to be extended to other animals. However, based on what has been found for rat studies, it is unlikely that any additional studies would involve a thorough safety investigation and a detailed report of all of the 47 approved GM crops possessing one or more of the three traits. Moreover, the rat model is the accepted OECD standard for toxicological studies of this type.

Whilst the safety of a GM crop is primarily and sometimes solely evaluated by government food regulators using the test for substantial equivalence, this is likely to be inadequate to fully assess the safety of the crop for reasons stated above. Animal feeding studies provide a more thorough method of investigating the unintended effects of the GM process or the unintended effects of ingesting GM crop components. Animal feeding studies can identify target organs as well as predict the chronic toxic effect of an ingested compound (OECD, 2008)


Conclusions

The evidence reviewed here demonstrates an incomplete picture regarding the toxicity (and safety) of GM crops consumed by humans and animals. The majority of studies reviewed lacked a unified approach and transparency in their methodology and results, making it impossible to properly review or repeat these studies. Furthermore, such lack of detail makes it difficult to generate evidence-based guidelines to aid in the delivery of an optimum safety assessment process for GM crops for animal and human consumption.

When considering how a better risk assessment could be done, it is important to consider systems established for other novel substances that may generate unintended effects. For example, the registration of pharmaceutical products requires an examination of both benefits and risks associated with their use and a complete assessment of those benefits and risks to establish whether the products are appropriate for general use at a range of doses. We argue that each GM crop should be assessed using similar methods, where a GM crop is tested in the form and at the rates it will be consumed by animals and people.

Whilst this provides for an effective general approach, there are additional issues for assessing GM crops that need to be taken into account. For example, the process of developing GM crops may generate unintended effects. Furthermore, the plant developed is a novel entity with genes, regulatory sequences and proteins that interact in complex ways. Therefore, the resultant plant should be assessed as a whole so that any pleiotropic effects can also be assessed. As a result, long-term animal feeding studies should be included in risk assessments of GM crops, together with thorough histopathological investigations using a variety of methods to better detect subtle changes or the beginning or presence of pathologies. Such robust and detailed studies will then make it possible to put evidence-based guidelines in place, which will substantially help to determine the safety of GM crops for human and animal consumption

TO READ THE COMPLETE STUDY

GMO ‘Golden Rice’ Tested on Kids Without Parental Consent

Truthstream Media

Beta-carotene enhanced GM rice, the “golden” child of biotech, is now hampered by a fudged study under ethics scrutiny.
A GMO study conducted in China, but funded by the USDA, tested unapproved “Golden Rice” on children without authorization, creating serious violations of ethics rules.

Tufts University researchers admitted that their lead scientist, Guangwen Tang, had broken the rules of disclosure in tests on human subjects, but maintain that their August 2012 study titled “β-Carotene in “Golden Rice” is as good as β-carotene in oil at providing vitamin A to children” remains valid.

Greenpeace China blew the whistle on what it called a scandal over a “potentially dangerous product.” Not properly informing the parents of the children used in the study constitutes a clear and serious ethics violations, the organization indicated.

The larger Greenpeace organization has played a long-term role in opposing the approval and use of “Golden Rice” to fight disease in the developing world. They and other opponents have long argued that “tried and true” methods of treating Vitamin A deficiency render the biotech “solution” irrelevant and unnecessary.

Nature.com highlighted an investigation conducted by CCTV in China, who aired a special documentary program on the ‘scandal.’ Emails turned up by reporters showed that a Chinese CDC official hid mention of the fact that the Golden Rice was genetically modified, claiming that it was dropped because it was ‘too sensitive’ to discuss with the parents of the children being fed GMOs in the study.

Many parents have since “demanded a guarantee that the rice will not affect their children’s health” as well as compensation money for the ethics breach. “If it’s safe, why did they need to deceive us into this?” a parent angrily asked China’s CCTV in their exposé.

There were further issued raised about how often the children in the study were actually fed the “Golden Rice,” with inquiries revealing that the children may have only eaten the rice ONCE during the study rather than daily over the course of three weeks.

Nature reported:
Critics note that discrepancies remain over the full details of the trial. For instance, the CDC’s investigation revealed that the children ate Golden Rice just once during the study — and not lunch every day during the three-week study as the paper states.

“How much Golden Rice did the children have exactly?” asks Wang Zheng, a policy researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Policy and Management in Beijing. “Either the researchers are lying about this now or they lied about it in their paper. It’s a serious offence either way.” [emphasis added]

According to the published study, the GM trait in “Golden Rice” that produces beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, was produced using heavy water (a technique derived from Harold Urey’s development of enriched uranium during the Manhattan Project) “harvested from a hydroponic plant system housed in the USDA-Agriculture Research Service Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston TX.”

Along with Tang’s research conducted at the Hunan Province Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China was additional research provided by the Carotenoids & Health Laboratory, USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.
Golden Rice has been a hot-button issue in genetically-modified politics for decades now. Proponents blame GM opponents for delaying its approval, and outlandishly claiming that they have cost lives, building upon the long-standing claims that “Golden Rice” could save a million lives per year, prevent blindness (and other related pro-GM puffery).

Slate accused anti-GMO activists of lying to get their way, reporting that groups behind the destruction of a trial GM rice field had falsely claimed farmers in the Philippines were behind the sabotage.

Biotech watchdogs like GM Watch, on the other hand, have long claimed that the benefits are less than shimmering, and that instead its real significance is in expanding the reach of GM agriculture – and companies like Syngenta who push it – in the developing world. Since 2001, activist Michael Pollan, Greenpeace and others have shown that the concentration of beta-carotene is not enough to make a ‘life saving’ or disease preventing difference – a problem worsened by the fact that cooking the rice reduces the Vitamin A content by 50%.

GM Watch explained how “Golden Rice” co-inventor Ingo Potrykus acknowledged back in 2001 that Greenpeace’s argument concerning the ineffective concentrations of beta-carotene in the rice amounted to a valid concern and notable flaw.

“I am happy to acknowledge, that Greenpeace is arguing on a rational basis… I also acknowledge, that Greenpeace has identified a weak point in the strategy of using Golden Rice for reducing vitamin A-deficiency… We will know for sure of course only, when all the standard biosafety assessments have been performed… we need far more data, than we have to date.” [emphasis added]

The current levels of beta-carotene produced by the heavy water “Golden Rice” would require children to eat between 100-150 grams of rice per day (or about 1/2-3/4 of a cup of cooked rice) in order to achieve 60% of the recommended daily allowance.

Even the Rockefeller Foundation, which long funded the development of “Golden Rice” – and, arguably, the entire “Gene Revolution” that brought genetically modified crops into mainstream use – conceded in a letter written by Gordon Conway in January 2001, that “we do not consider Golden Rice the solution to Vitamin A deficiency” and noting that “the public relations uses of Golden Rice have gone too far.”

Conway writes:
“The industry’s advertisements and the media in general seem to forget that it is a research product that needs considerable further development before it will be available to farmers and consumers.”

Yet more than a decade after industry proponents tried to knock environmental watchdogs for their critique and delay of “Golden Rice,” researchers are caught fudging their data and failing to properly inform the parents of the children used in the study that the product was even genetically modified.

If the benefits for the world are so profound, why is there so much to hide?

Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out on the Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food

Mercola . com
by Dr. Mercola

Who better to speak the truth about the risks posed by genetically modified (GM) foods than Thierry Vrain, a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada? It was Vrain’s job to address public groups and reassure them that GM crops and food were safe, a task he did with considerable knowledge and passion.

But Vrain, who once touted GM crops as a technological advancement indicative of sound science and progress, has since started to acknowledge the steady flow of research coming from prestigious labs and published in high-impact journals – research showing that there is significant reason for concern about GM crops – and he has now changed his position.

Former Pro-GMO Scientist Cites GM Food Safety Concerns

Vrain cites the concerning fact that it is studies done by Monsanto and other biotech companies that claim GM crops have no impact on the environment and are safe to eat. But federal departments in charge of food safety in the US and Canada have not conducted tests to affirm this alleged “safety.”

Vrain writes:

“There are no long-term feeding studies performed in these countries [US and Canada] to demonstrate the claims that engineered corn and soya are safe. All we have are scientific studies out of Europe and Russia, showing that rats fed engineered food die prematurely.

These studies show that proteins produced by engineered plants are different than what they should be. Inserting a gene in a genome using this technology can and does result in damaged proteins. The scientific literature is full of studies showing that engineered corn and soya contain toxic or allergenic proteins.

… I refute the claims of the biotechnology companies that their engineered crops yield more, that they require less pesticide applications, that they have no impact on the environment and of course that they are safe to eat.”

“The Whole Paradigm of Genetic Engineering Technology is Based on a Misunderstanding”

This misunderstanding is the “one gene, one protein” hypothesis from 70 years ago, which stated that each gene codes for a single protein. However, the Human Genome project completed in 2002 failed dramatically to identify one gene for every one protein in the human body, forcing researchers to look to epigenetic factors — namely, “factors beyond the control of the gene” – to explain how organisms are formed, and how they work.

According to Vrain:

“Genetic engineering is 40 years old. It is based on the naive understanding of the genome based on the One Gene – one protein hypothesis of 70 years ago, that each gene codes for a single protein. The Human Genome project completed in 2002 showed that this hypothesis is wrong.

The whole paradigm of the genetic engineering technology is based on a misunderstanding. Every scientist now learns that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic.”

In other words, genetic engineering is based on an extremely oversimplified model that suggests that by taking out or adding one or several genes, you can create a particular effect or result. But this premise, which GMO expert Dr. Philip Bereano calls “the Lego model,” is not correct. You cannot simply take out a yellow piece and put in a green piece and call the structure identical because there are complex interactions that are still going to take place and be altered, even if the initial structure still stands.

Serious Problems May Arise From Horizontal Gene Transfer

GE plants and animals are created using horizontal gene transfer (also called horizontal inheritance), as contrasted with vertical gene transfer, which is the mechanism in natural reproduction. Vertical gene transfer, or vertical inheritance, is the transmission of genes from the parent generation to offspring via sexual or asexual reproduction, i.e., breeding a male and female from one species.

By contrast, horizontal gene transfer involves injecting a gene from one species into a completely different species, which yields unexpected and often unpredictable results. Proponents of GM crops assume they can apply the principles of vertical inheritance to horizontal inheritance, but according to Dr. David Suzuki, an award-winning geneticist, this assumption is flawed in just about every possible way and is “just lousy science.”

Genes don’t function in a vacuum — they act in the context of the entire genome. Whole sets of genes are turned on and off in order to arrive at a particular organism, and the entire orchestration is an activated genome. It’s a dangerous mistake to assume a gene’s traits are expressed properly, regardless of where they’re inserted. The safety of GM food is based only on a hypothesis, and this hypothesis is already being proven wrong.

Leading Scientists Disprove GMO Safety

Vrain cites the compelling report “GMO Myths and Truths” as just one of many scientific examples disputing the claims of the biotech industry that GM crops yield better and more nutritious food, save on the use of pesticides, have no environmental impact whatsoever and are perfectly safe to eat. The authors took a science-based approach to evaluating the available research, arriving at the conclusion that most of the scientific evidence regarding safety and increased yield potential do not at all support the claims. In fact, the evidence demonstrates the claims for genetically engineered foods are not just wildly overblown – they simply aren’t true.

The authors of this critical report include Michael Antoniou, PhD, who heads the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King’s College at London School of Medicine in the UK. He’s a 28-year veteran of genetic engineering technology who has himself invented a number of gene expression biotechnologies; and John Fagan, PhD, a leading authority on food sustainability, biosafety, and GE testing. If you want to get a comprehensive understanding of genetically engineered foods, I strongly recommend reading this report.

Not only are GM foods less nutritious than non-GM foods, they pose distinct health risks, are inadequately regulated, harm the environment and farmers, and are a poor solution to world hunger. Worse still, these questionable GM crops are now polluting non-GM crops, leading to contamination that cannot ever be “recalled” the way you can take a bad drug off the market … once traditional foods are contaminated with GM genes, there is no going back! Vrain expanded:

“Genetic pollution is so prevalent in North and South America where GM crops are grown that the fields of conventional and organic grower are regularly contaminated with engineered pollen and losing certification. The canola and flax export market from Canada to Europe (a few hundreds of millions of dollars) were recently lost because of genetic pollution.”

American Academy of Environmental Medicine Called for Moratorium on GM Foods FOUR Years Ago

In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for a moratorium on GM foods, and said that long-term independent studies must be conducted, stating:

“Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. …There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation…”

Despite this sound warning, GM foods continue to be added to the US food supply with no warning to the Americans buying and eating this food. Genetic manipulation of crops, and more recently food animals, is a dangerous game that has repeatedly revealed that assumptions about how genetic alterations work and the effects they have on animals and humans who consume such foods are deeply flawed and incomplete. Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant claims genetically engineered crops are “the most-tested food product that the world has ever seen.” What he doesn’t tell you is that:

Industry-funded research predictably affects the outcome of the trial. This has been verified by dozens of scientific reviews comparing funding with the findings of the study. When industry funds the research, it’s virtually guaranteed to be positive. Therefore, independent studies must be done to replicate and thus verify results.

The longest industry-funded animal feeding study was 90 days, which recent research has confirmed is FAR too short. In the world’s first independently funded lifetime feeding study, massive health problems set in during and after the 13th month, including organ damage and cancer.

Companies like Monsanto and Syngenta rarely if ever allow independent researchers access to their patented seeds, citing the legal protection these seeds have under patent laws. Hence independent research is extremely difficult to conduct.
There is no safety monitoring. Meaning, once the GM item in question has been approved, not a single country on earth is actively monitoring and tracking reports of potential health effects.

It Might Take More Than One Bite to Kill You …

“One argument I hear repeatedly is that nobody has been sick or died after a meal (or a trillion meals since 1996) of GM food,” Vrain said. “Nobody gets ill from smoking a pack of cigarettes either. But it sure adds up, and we did not know that in the 1950s before we started our wave of epidemics of cancer. Except this time it is not about a bit of smoke, it’s the whole food system that is of concern. The corporate interest must be subordinated to the public interest, and the policy of substantial equivalence must be scrapped as it is clearly untrue.”

Remember, Vrain used to give talks about the benefits of GM foods, but he simply couldn’t ignore the research any longer … and why, then, should you? All in all, if GM foods have something wrong with them that potentially could cause widespread illness or environmental devastation, Monsanto would rather NOT have you find out about it. Not through independent research, nor through a simple little label that would allow you to opt out of the experiment, should you choose not to take them on their word. As Vrain continued:

“The Bt corn and soya plants that are now everywhere in our environment are registered as insecticides. But are these insecticidal plants regulated and have their proteins been tested for safety? Not by the federal departments in charge of food safety, not in Canada and not in the U.S.

… We should all take these studies seriously and demand that government agencies replicate them rather than rely on studies paid for by the biotech companies … Individuals should be encouraged to make their decisions on food safety based on scientific evidence and personal choice, not on emotion or the personal opinions of others.”

At present, the only way to avoid GM foods is to ditch processed foods from your grocery list, and revert back to whole foods grown according to organic standards.

Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods

While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people’s initiative 522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:

“Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn’t required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn’t have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.

Doesn’t it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.

I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers.”

Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn’t have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let’s not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.

No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.

If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.

For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.

Hungary torches 500 hectares of GM corn to eradicate GMOs from food supply

When it comes to protecting the public from GMOs, Hungary knows how to get the job done: set fire to the fields growing GM corn!

Although environmentalists might at first argue about the ramifications of burning so much organic matter right out in the open, the deeper truth is that genetic pollution poses a vastly more serious threat to our world, and burning GM corn is the one sure way to destroy the poisonous genetic code contained in plant tissues. In fact, I hope to see the day when the U.S. courts order the destruction of all GM corn fields across America. And I suspect that if the courts won’t rise to the occasion, the People will sooner or later find a way to get it done on their own. Think “Army of the 12 Monkeys” but with a GMO slant.

Lajos Bognar, Hungary’s Minister of Rural Development, reported this week that around 500 hectares of GM corn were ordered burned by the government. Hungary has criminalized the planting of genetically modified crops of any kind, and it has repeatedly burned thousands of hectares of illegal GM crops in years past.

This news was originally published in Portuguese at Rede Brasil Atual. An English translation has been posted at GMwatch.org.

GMOs are outlawed across the planet

GMOs have been banned in 27 countries, and GMOs are required to be labeled in at least 50 countries. In America, where Monsanto has deployed an insidious degree of influence over the legislature and courts, GMOs are neither illegal nor required to be labeled. In fact, 71 U.S. Senators recently voted against a measure that would have allowed states to pass their own food labeling laws.

Those Senators are now known as the Monsanto 71. The list includes Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, both senators from agricultural states (Kentucky and Texas) where Monsanto continues to exercise heavy influence over farmers.

Shockingly, most farmers who are planting GMOs have no knowledge whatsoever of what GMOs are or why people don’t want them in their food. They’ve been lied to by the biotech industry which promised them “higher yields” and “greater profits.” In reality, GM crop yields have plummeted even while giving rise to herbicide-resistant “superweeds” that now threaten many farms. With soils that have been rendered sterile with glyphosate and crop yields falling, farmers are increasingly finding themselves in dire straights.

Their only way out, of course, is to return to planting non-GMO crops. But wisdom moves very, very slowly through Texas A&M, a Monsanto stronghold and key propaganda center for pushing frankenfoods in the South.

A genetic apocalypse may devastate America’s bread basket

Hungary was wise to protect its agricultural sector from Monsanto’s imperialism. In contrast, America is incredibly foolish to sell out its food supply to destructive corporate interests that value nothing but profit.

By disallowing GMO labeling and promoting the continued commercialization of genetically modified crops (thanks, USDA!), the U.S. government is playing Russian roulette with America’s food future. One day, something the scientists didn’t anticipate will kick in, and the crimes against nature that have been committed by Monsanto will explode into a genetic apocalypse that threatens the future of life on our planet.

Remember: GMOs aren’t merely “pollution” in the classic sense. They are self-replicating pollution that may be impossible to stop. Hence the wisdom of burning GM corn fields to the ground. Fire destroys DNA and breaks down vegetable matter into its elemental constituents: carbon and mineral ash, essentially. Fields that were once dangerous are now harmless. Fire restores sanity by destroying the engineered DNA dreamed up by mad scientists working for arrogant, foolish corporations who think they’re smarter than Mother Nature and God.

Mark my words: there will come a day when Americans will wish they had burned all the GM corn fields to the ground. But by then it will be too late. The blight will be upon us, and with it comes the starvation, the suffering, the desperation and the riots. Hunger turns all family men into savages, just as greed turns all corporate men into demons.

To avoid both outcomes, we must banish GMOs now. Indict the executives of Monsanto for conspiracy to commit mass poisoning of the people. Invoke the RICO Act. Pull out the Patriot Act. Use whatever laws are on the books to put this monster away so that future generations do not have to suffer the devastating consequences of open-world genetic experiments gone awry.

Frankenapple: Bad News No Matter How You Slice It

Organic Consumers Association
by Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins

Thanks to the biotech industry’s relentless quest to control our food, McDonald’s, Burger King and even school cafeterias will soon be able to serve up apples that won’t turn brown when they’re sliced or bitten into. A new, almost entirely untested genetic modification technology, called RNA interference, or double strand RNA (dsRNA), is responsible for this new food miracle. Scientists warn that this genetic manipulation poses health risks, as the manipulated RNA gets into our digestive systems and bloodstreams. The biotech industry claims otherwise.

Of course, like any non-organic apple, the new GMO Arctic® Apple will be drenched in toxic pesticide residues, untested by the U.S. Food & Drug Association (FDA) and likely unlabeled. And of course these shiny new high-tech apples will be cheap, priced considerably lower than a pesticide-free, nutrient-dense, old-fashioned organic apple that turns a little brown after you slice it up.

When the Biotech Industry Organization gathers next week in Chicago for the 2013 BIO International Convention, BIOTECanada will present its “Gold Leaf Award for Early Stage Agriculture” to Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc. (OSF), purveyor of the Arctic® Apple, slated for approval in the U.S. this year. We hate to upset the biotech apple cart, but a pesticide-intensive GMO apple, produced through a risky manipulation of RNA, doesn’t deserve a place on our grocery shelves, much less in the agriculture hall of fame.

That said, the Arctic “Frankenapple” is expected to be approved this year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), responsible for protecting agriculture from pests and diseases. It does not require approval by the FDA, which is responsible for human food and animal feed.

Just one more bad apple

Apples, that is, apples that haven’t been certified organic, already are on the list of Should-Be-Forbidden fruits. They reliably top the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, for both the volume and the stunning array of pesticides consistently found on them. According to the Pesticide Action Network’s analysis of the most recent USDA data, apples tested positive for 42 pesticides, including organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides. Both are endocrine disruptors, both have suspected neurological effects, and both are considered especially toxic for children. (Organophosphates are the basis for nerve gases used in chemical warfare, and have been linked to the development of ADHD in kids.)

Given the grim report card of non-organic apples, some might say it really doesn’t make any difference if we start tinkering with the apple’s genetic RNA. After all, unlike the case with GMO corn or salmon, scientists aren’t injecting pesticides or genes from foreign plants or animals into the genes of apples to create the Frankenapple. While most existing genetically engineered plants are designed to make new proteins, the Arctic Apple is engineered to produce a form of genetic information called double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). The new dsRNA alters the way genes are expressed. The result, in the Arctic Apple’s case, is a new double strand of RNA that genetically “silences” the apple’s ability to produce polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme that causes the apple to turn brown when it’s exposed to oxygen.

Harmless? The biotech industry, OSF and some scientists say yes. But others, including Professor Jack Heinemann (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Sarah Agapito-Tenfen (from Santa Catarina University in Brazil) and Judy Carman (Flinders University in South Australia), say that dsRNA manipulation is untested, and therefore inherently risky. Recent research has shown that dsRNAs can transfer from plants to humans and other animals through food. The biotech industry has always claimed that genetically engineered DNA or RNA is destroyed by human digestion, eliminating the danger of these mutant organisms damaging human genes or human health. But many biotech scientists say otherwise. They point to evidence that the manipulated RNA finds its way into our digestive systems and bloodstreams, potentially damaging or silencing vital human genes.

There are indirect health consequences, too. Turns out the chemical compound that is shut off in the engineered fruit through RNA manipulation, in order to make it not oxidize or brown, is a chemical compound that also fights off plant pests. What happens when the apple’s ability to fend off insects is compromised? Growers will need to spray greater amounts, of possibly even more toxic pesticides, on a crop already saturated with at least 42 types of pesticides. Those pesticides will eventually find their way into our bodies, either because we ingested the fruit, or breathed the air or drank the water where the pesticides were sprayed.


Testing? What testing?

So what’s the trade-off? Non-organic apple growers will prosper as more moms buy more apples for more kids who will, the industry alleges, be the healthier for it. It makes for a good public relations story, but no matter how you wrap it up or slice it, taking apples that are already saturated in pesticides, and genetically engineering them for purely cosmetic purposes, does not a healthy snack make.

The pro- and anti-GMO movements will debate whether or not the GMO apple is safe for human consumption. The fact is, we’ll never know until they are properly labeled and safety-tested. As with every other GMO food ingredient or product sold in the U.S., the Arctic Apple will undergo no independent safety testing by the FDA or the USDA. Instead, the USDA will rely on OSF’s word that the apple is safe for human consumption. And without any state or federal mandatory GMO labeling laws in place, OSF will not be required to label its Frankenapple, meaning that consumers or children harmed by the dsRNA modified apple will have great difficulty identifying the mutant RNA that harmed them.

The controversy and debate surrounding dsRNA and the Arctic Apple has just begun. But there is no longer any debate about the dangers that pesticides and pesticide residues on non-organic apples pose to humans, whether we directly ingest these toxic residues by eating an apple, or whether we’re exposed to them through contaminated air and groundwater as a result of acres of orchards being sprayed to control increasingly resistant insects and diseases.

What about the argument that a kid eating a few slices of apples can’t consume enough of any one of these pesticides to cause any real risk to their health? Debunked. Recent studies reveal that during apple season, kids exhibit spikes in the level of pesticides found in their urine, spikes that exceed the U.S. government’s “safe levels.” Kids who live in apple-growing regions show even higher spikes. And those 42 varieties of pesticides? The government establishes “safe levels” for each one – but it doesn’t test for the potential effect of ingesting 42 different pesticides, all chemically interacting with each other, and ingested all at once.

From biodiversity to monoculture

How did we get to the point where it takes 42 pesticides to keep an apple crop healthy? Michael Pollan best explains it in his book Botany of Desire. Turns out that apples have an extreme tendency toward something called heterozygosity, which means genetic variability. This trait accounts for how, left to its own devices, the apple can “make itself at home in places as different from one another as New England and New Zealand, Kazakhstan and California.” Pollan writes: “Wherever the apple tree goes, its offspring propose so many different variations on what it means to be an apple – at least five per apple, several thousand per tree – that a couple of these novelties are almost bound to have whatever qualities it takes to prosper in the tree’s adopted home.”

Today, you’d have to visit the apple orchard museum in Geneva, New York, to find all the varieties of apples that used to thrive in the wild. Over time, in our quest to control the taste, texture and appearance of apples, we’ve eliminated all but a relative few varieties. We’ve gone too far, says Pollan. By relying on too few genes for too long, the apple has lost its ability to get along on its own, outdoors.

Enter the agro-chemical companies. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Agricultural Chemical Use Program, apple growers in states surveyed in 2011 applied carbaryl to 46 percent of their acreage, at an average rate of 1.566 pounds per acre for the crop year; chlorantraniliprole to 45 percent; and chlorpyrifos to 44 percent. Apple growers applied glyphosate isopropylamine salt to 25 percent of acres at an average of 1.604 pounds per acre for the crop year. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The Arctic Apple has been in development for over a decade, the company says. OSF submitted a petition for deregulation to the USDA in May 2010. The USDA, which must hold two public comment periods, concluded the first on Sept. 11, 2011. It’s expected to open the second public comment period this spring or summer, and OSF hopes the GMO apple will be approved for growing and selling in the U.S. this year.

The Organic Consumers Association will hold a press conference and set up a picket line at the Biotechnology Industry Organization Convention in Chicago, at Noon on April 23, to protest OSF’s GMO apple.

Related:  Poison Apples: “Organic” Fruit can be Tainted by Antibiotics until Fall 2014

Monsanto threatens to sue the entire state of Vermont

RT

Lawmakers in Vermont are looking to regulate food labels so customers can know which products are made from genetically modified crops, but agricultural giants Monsanto say they will sue if the state follows through.

If the bill in question, H-722 (the “VT Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act”) passes the state Senate and House, manufacturers will be required to label products that are created either partially or in full from a genetically modified organism, or GMO. Such man-made crops have become a trademark of the billion-dollar Monsanto corporation, and in the past the company has gone to great lengths to keep themselves the number-one name in American agriculture, even if those profits are made possible from playing God.

Monsanto is going mad over the proposal, however, which would also make them unable to label their productions as “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown” or “all natural,” if, in fact, they are not. For the corporation, it would seem that moving products and making money is much more of a worthwhile venture than telling its customers what exactly they are consuming.

With Vermont legislators now standing in the way of what could mean even more money for Monsanto, the company says they will sue the state if H-722 is approved. Now in fear of a lawsuit in the future, lawmakers in Vermont have put a hold on any future voting regarding the bill. If history is any indication, Monsanto is more than likely to have their way and win yet another battle.

Monsanto is no stranger to the American legal system and have forced competing farm after farm to be shut down or bought out by bringing lawsuits against the little guy throughout their history. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto’s legal team tried to file nearly 150 lawsuits against independent farmers, often for allegations that their patented GMO-seeds had somehow managed to be carried onto unlicensed farms. Often those farms have been unable to fight against Monsanto’s mega-lawyers and have been forced to fold in response. The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association tried taking Monsanto to court earlier this year to keep them from following similar suits, but a Federal District Court judge in Manhattan shut down their plea. The group has since filed an appeal.

Regardless of if the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association’s appeal will be granted, Monsanto is making waves in Vermont where they hope to continue creating GMO products and pushing them to consumers without warning. Between state lawmakers putting their vote on hold and past precedents, Monsanto looks more than likely to win their latest battle, though. Back in 1994, Vermont tried to keep dairy corporations from marketing milk made from cows injected with the Bovine Growth Hormone, citing incidents where the rBGH had been tied to cases of cancer. Monsanto was victorious in that battle and numerous others in the years since.

Related:  Senate Passes Monsanto Protection Act Granting Monsanto Power Over US Govt