Why Are Toxin Proteins Genetically Engineered Into Your Food?
September 26, 2011
By Dr. Mercola
If you've ever taken a drive through the rural Midwest in the United States, you've likely had the pleasure of seeing acre upon acre of rolling farmlands planted with primarily corn and soybeans. On the surface it's a calming sight, evoking images of a simpler, more wholesome time -- but unfortunately if you dig beneath the surface the image is much darker, because most of these crops are far different from the ones our ancestors first planted generations ago.
Today, upwards of 85 percent of U.S. corn crops contain a special gene added that allows them to produce an insecticide. This way, when bugs attempt to eat the corn they're killed right away (specifically their stomach is split open) because the plant contains an invisible, built-in pesticide shield. The problem is, of course, that when you eat this corn you eat the built-in pesticide as well, and as you might suspect this is proving problematic for human health and the environment.
You're Likely Eating Foods That Contain a Built-in Pesticide and Don't Even Know It
The particular gene added to most corn crops is a type of Bt-toxin -- produced from Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria. Genetic engineers remove the gene that produces the Bt in bacteria and insert it into the DNA of corn (and cotton) plants.
These toxins, including Cry1Aa toxin of B. thuringiensis, are known as "pore-forming toxins" because they cause essential minerals needed for cell survival to perforate the cell membrane and kill the host. But these proteins are highly dynamic, meaning they change quickly in different environments, such as inside or outside of the cell membrane. For this reason, studying their exact mechanisms has been difficult and little is known about the basic functioning of these toxin proteins, or their risks in using them as pesticides in our food supply.
Monsanto and others claim that Bt-toxin is quickly destroyed in human stomachs -- and even if it survived, it won't cause reactions in humans or mammals ...But studies are now showing that this is not the case.
Bt Toxin May Already be Circulating in Your Bloodstream
Bt toxin is readily passing into the human bloodstream and animal studies have already shown that Bt-toxin does cause health effects in animals, including potentially humans. As Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, wrote:
"Mice fed natural Bt-toxin showed significant immune responses and caused them to become sensitive to other formerly harmless compounds. This suggests that Bt-toxin might make a person allergic to a wide range of substances. Farm workers and others have also had reactions to natural Bt-toxin, and authorities acknowledge that "People with compromised immune systems or preexisting allergies may be particularly susceptible to the effects of Bt."
In fact, when natural Bt was sprayed over areas around Vancouver and Washington State to fight gypsy moths, about 500 people reported reactions—mostly allergy or flu-like symptoms. Six people had to go to the emergency room.
… The Bt-toxin produced in the GM plants is probably more dangerous than in its natural spray form. In the plants, the toxin is about 3,000-5,000 times more concentrated than the spray, it doesn't wash off the plants like the spray does, and it is designed to be more toxic than the natural version. In fact, the GM toxin has properties of known allergens and fails all three GM allergy tests recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others."
In the first study to test whether or not these toxin proteins are finding their way into humans, it appears the toxin is quite prevalent, as upon testing 69 pregnant and non-pregnant women who were eating a typical Canadian diet (which included foods such as GM soy, corn and potatoes), researchers found Cry1Ab, a specific type of Bt toxin, in:
- 93 percent of maternal blood samples
- 80 percent of fetal blood samples
- 69 percent of non-pregnant women blood samples
Toxic Proteins are Also Infiltrating the Environment
As you might suspect, Bt toxin has also infiltrated the environment. According to one study, 50 of the 217 streams, ditches and drains near cornfields that researchers tested were found to contain Cry1Ab above six nanograms per liter. The protein is getting into the waterways via corn stalks, leaves, husks and cobs that blow into the water -- a phenomenon that's incredibly common since farmers often leave such material in fields to help minimize soil erosion.
Eighty-six percent of the streams tested contained various corn material with the potential to transmit Bt-toxin into water. Further, because the study was conducted six months after crops were harvested, it indicates that the GM protein lingers in the environment. Now that this GM toxin is showing up in waterways, it has the potential to devastate aquatic life and continue to spread, uncontrolled and unrestricted, across the entire United States and world.
New Meta-Analysis Confirms: 'Genetically Modified Feed is Toxic'
The danger posed by GM crops is no longer theoretical, as proven by an analysis of 19 studies in which animals were fed GM soy and corn, which comprise more than 80 percent of all GMOs cultivated on a large scale, and exist in virtually every processed food sold in the United States.
It was revealed that nearly 10 percent of blood, urine, organ and other parameters tested were significantly influenced by GMOs, with the liver and kidneys faring the worst. The data revealed quite clearly that consuming GM food leads to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice, and this occurred in animals fed GM corn and soy for just 30-90 days. As the researchers stated, only three events were tested for more than 90 days in feeding experiments or on more than one generation, even though a 90-day period is considered insufficient to evaluate chronic toxicity!
"In fact, it is impossible, within only 13 weeks, to conclude about the kind of pathology that could be induced by pesticide GMOs and whether it is a major pathology or a minor one. It is therefore necessary to prolong the tests …
We can conclude, from the regulatory tests performed today, that it is unacceptable to submit 500 million Europeans and several billions of consumers worldwide to the new pesticide GM-derived foods or feed, this being done without more controls (if any) than the only 3-month-long toxicological tests and using only one mammalian species, especially since there is growing evidence of concern … "
They labeled the majority of GMOs on the market "pesticide plants," referring to the about 20 percent of GM crops that contain the Bt toxin, as discussed above, along with the other estimated 80 percent of GMOs, which are modified to be resistant to Roundup herbicide.
"All these commercialized cultivated GMOs have been modified to contain pesticides, either through herbicide tolerance or by producing insecticides, or both, and could therefore be considered as "pesticide plants."
Almost all GMOs only encode these two traits despite claims of numerous other traits. For instance, Roundup ready crops have been modified in order to become insensitive to glyphosate. This chemical together with adjuvants in formulations constitutes a potent herbicide. It has been used for many years as a weed killer by blocking aromatic amino acid synthesis by inhibition of 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS).
Most Roundup ready plants have been modified thanks to the insertion of a mutated EPSPS gene coding for a mutated enzyme, which is not inhibited by glyphosate. Therefore, GM plants exposed to glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup do not specifically degrade glyphosate. They can even accumulate Roundup residues throughout their life, even if they excrete most of such residues. Glyphosate and its main metabolite AMPA (with its own toxicity) are found in GMOs on a regular and regulatory basis.
Therefore, such residues are absorbed by people eating most GM plants (as around 80% of these plants are Roundup tolerant). On the other hand, about 20% of the other GMOs do synthesize new insecticide proteins through the insertion of mutated genes derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)."
What this means is that nearly ALL foods you buy that contain either corn or soy have the potential to transfer GM material into your body, often in the form of pesticides:
- GM corn -- which is engineered to produce the insecticidal BT toxin -- might transfer and continue to create insecticide inside your intestines
- Roundup-ready soybeans -- which have herbicide-resistant genes inserted into them in order to survive being sprayed with otherwise deadly doses of Roundup herbicide -- might transfer the herbicide-resistant genes into the DNA of your intestinal bacteria, where it continues to function long after you stop eating the GM soy
What Can You do to Avoid This Massive Experiment?
The amount of GM crops now grown in the United States (over 90 percent of all corn is GM corn and over 95 percent of soy is GM soy) makes it so that EVERY processed food you encounter at your local supermarket that does not bear the "USDA Organic" label is filled with GM components.
So you're eating GM foods, and you have been for the last decade, whether you knew it or not. You can thank Congress for this, and the USDA and Monsanto. What ultimate impact these GM foods will have on your health is still unknown, but increased disease, infertility and birth defects appear to be on the top of the list of most likely side effects. So to call the infiltration of GMOs into our food supply a massive experiment is not an exaggeration.
Even the New York Times stated earlier this year:
"A majority of our foods already contain GMOs and there's little reason to think more isn't on the way. It seems our "regulators" are using us and the environment as guinea pigs, rather than demanding conclusive tests. And without labeling, we have no say in the matter whatsoever."
That you have no say in the matter is really only partially true, as once you become informed you can avoid buying GM foods and even help to stop the GM trend. We CAN shift the balance by simply voting with our pocketbooks. Europe successfully did this over a decade ago, without any government assistance, and Americans can drive GMO's out of our food supply as well, but it requires educating the public about what GM foods are.
If you don't already have a copy of the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, please print one out and refer to it often. It can help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. Also remember to look for products (including organic products) that feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal to be sure that at-risk ingredients have been tested for GMO content. Many health food stores will carry these products.
You can also download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
If you're feeling more ambitious, you can also order the Non-GMO Shopping Tips brochure from the Institute of Responsible Technology in bulk and give it to your family and friends.
Better yet, always buy USDA 100% Organic products when possible, or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers who do not use GM seeds. The majority of the GMO's you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with GM ingredients. Finally, avoid non-organic processed foods as much as possible, as again these are virtually 100-percent guaranteed to contain GM ingredients.
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
Remember, the food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State—to prevent you from knowing what's in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right; all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.
As always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. You can also print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the chemical technology industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.