By Dr. Mercola
The more we learn about genetically engineered (GE) foods, the clearer the dangers become. I’ve warned you of the potential dangers of GE foods for many years now, as I was convinced that the artificial combining of plants with genes from wildly different kingdoms is bound to cause problems.
As the years roll on, such suspicions are becoming increasingly validated. In recent weeks, we’ve not only learned that GE corn is in no way comparable to natural corn in terms of nutrition, we’re also discovering the ramifications of dousing our crops with large amounts of glyphosate — the active ingredient in Monsanto’s broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup.
GE crops are far more contaminated with glyphosate than conventional crops, courtesy of the fact that they’re engineered to withstand extremely high levels of Roundup without perishing along with the weed.
A new peer-reviewed report authored by Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant, and a long time contributor to the Mercola.com Vital Votes Forum and Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has fortunately received quite a bit of mainstream media attention.
Their findings, along with the development of another breed of “gene silencing” crops, makes the need for labeling all the more urgent, and the advice to buy certified organic all the more valid.
How Glyphosate Worsens Modern Diseases
While Monsanto insists that Roundup is safe and “minimally toxic” to humans, Samsel and Seneff's research tells a different story altogether. Their report, published in the journal Entropy,1 argues that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GE sugar, corn, soy and wheat, “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.” According to the authors:
"Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”
The main finding of the report is that glyphosate inhibits cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, a large and diverse group of enzymes that catalyze the oxidation of organic substances. This, the authors state, is “an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals.”
One of the functions of CYP enzymes is to detoxify xenobiotics—chemical compounds found in a living organism that are not normally produced or consumed by the organism in question. By limiting the ability of these enzymes to detoxify foreign chemical compounds, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of those chemicals and environmental toxins you may be exposed to.
Dr. Stephanie Seneff has been conducting research at MIT for over three decades. She also has an undergraduate degree in biology from MIT and a minor in food and nutrition, and I have previously interviewed her about her groundbreaking insights into the critical importance of sulfur in human health. Not surprisingly, this latest research also touches on sulfur, and how it is affected by glyphosate from food.
“Here, we show how interference with CYP enzymes acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport,” the authors write.
“Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease, and we show that glyphosate is the 'textbook example' of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.”
The Link Between Your Gut and the Toxicity of Glyphosate
The impact of gut bacteria on your health is becoming increasingly more well-understood and widely known. And here, we see how your gut bacteria once again play a crucial role in explaining why and how glyphosate causes health problems in both animals and humans. The authors explain:
“Glyphosate’s claimed mechanism of action in plants is the disruption of the shikimate pathway, which is involved with the synthesis of the essential aromatic amino acids, phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. The currently accepted dogma is that glyphosate is not harmful to humans or to any mammals because the shikimate pathway is absent in all animals.
However, this pathway is present in gut bacteria, which play an important and heretofore largely overlooked role in human physiology through an integrated biosemiotic relationship with the human host. In addition to aiding digestion, the gut microbiota synthesize vitamins, detoxify xenobiotics, and participitate in immune system homeostasis and gastrointestinal tract permeability. Furthermore, dietary factors modulate the microbial composition of the gut.”
As noted in the report, incidences of inflammatory bowel diseases and food allergies have substantially increased over the past decade. According to a recent CDC survey, one in 20 children now suffer from food allergies2 — a 50 percent increase from the late 1990’s. Incidence of eczema and other skin allergies have risen by 69 percent and now affect one in eight kids. Samsel and Seneff argue it is reasonable to suspect that glyphosate’s impact on gut bacteria may be contributing to these diseases and conditions. They point out that:
“...Our systematic search of the literature has led us to the realization that many of the health problems that appear to be associated with a Western diet could be explained by biological disruptions that have already been attributed to glyphosate.
These include digestive issues, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, liver diseases, and cancer, among others. While many other environmental toxins obviously also contribute to these diseases and conditions, we believe that glyphosate may be the most significant environmental toxin, mainly because it is pervasive and it is often handled carelessly due to its perceived nontoxicity.
...[T]he recent alarming increase in all of these health issues can be traced back to a combination of gut dysbiosis, impaired sulfate transport, and suppression of the activity of the various members of the cytochrome P450 (CYP) family of enzymes.”
Former Navy Scientist Exposes Health Hazards of Glyphosate
Former US Navy staff scientist Dr. Nancy Swanson has a Ph.D. in physics, holds five US patents and has authored more than 30 scientific papers and two books on women in science. Ten years ago, she became seriously ill, and in her journey to regain her health she turned to organic foods. Not surprisingly (for those in the know) her symptoms dramatically improved. This prompted her to start investigating genetically engineered foods.
She has meticulously collected statistics on glyphosate usage and various diseases and conditions, including autism. A more perfect match-up between the rise in glyphosate usage and incidence of autism is hard to imagine... To access her published articles and reports, please visit Sustainable Pulse,3 a European website dedicated to exposing the hazards of genetically engineered foods.
According to Dr. Swanson:4
“Prevalence and incidence data show correlations between diseases of the organs and the increase in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the food supply, along with the increase in glyphosate-based herbicide applications. More and more studies have revealed carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting effects of Roundup at lower doses than those authorized for residues found in Genetically Modified Organisms.”
“The endocrine disrupting properties of glyphosate can lead to reproductive problems: infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, and sexual development. Fetuses, infants and children are especially susceptible because they are continually experiencing growth and hormonal changes. For optimal growth and development, it is crucial that their hormonal system is functioning properly.
The endocrine disrupting properties also lead to neurological disorders (learning disabilities (LD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder). Those most susceptible are children and the elderly.”
Warning! EPA Raises Limits for Allowable Glyphosate Residues
Amazingly, just as more independent reports are emerging confirming the health hazards of glyphosate and GMOs, the Environmental Protection Agency5 (EPA) is proposing to RAISE the allowed residue limits of glyphosate in food and feed crops! As reported by GM Watch 6:
“The allowed level in teff animal feed will be 100 parts per million (ppm); and in oilseed crops, 40 ppm. Allowed levels in some fruits and vegetables eaten by humans will also rise.”
Root and tuber vegetables, with the exception of sugar, will get one of the largest boosts, with allowable residue limits being raised from 0.2 ppm to 6.0 ppm. The new level for sweet potatoes will be 3 ppm.
“As a comparison, malformations in frog and chicken embryos were documented7 by Prof Andres Carrasco's team at 2.03 ppm glyphosate, when injected into the embryos,” GM Watch writes.
Yet despite all the evidence, the EPA rule states:
Monsanto has in fact petitioned and received approvals for increases in residue levels for several crops. Why? Because the weeds are getting increasingly resistant, requiring farmers to increase the amount of Roundup they have to spray just to keep up with the superweeds created by the excessive use of the chemical in the first place...
"EPA concludes that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result to the general population or to infants and children from aggregate exposure to glyphosate residues."
The Rise of Superweeds
A recent article in Nature Magazine8 addressed some of the environmental and societal concerns associated with genetically engineered crops. One of them is the rise in crop-destroying superweeds, as weeds develop resistance to glyphosate. This was yet another possibility that was initially pooh-pooh’d by Monsanto. However, truth has a way of eventually becoming self evident, and now glyphosate resistance is becoming so obvious the facts are hardly disguisable. According to the article:
“As late as 2004, the company was publicizing a multi-year study suggesting that rotating crops and chemicals does not help to avert resistance. When applied at Monsanto’s recommended doses, glyphosate killed weeds effectively, and 'we know that dead weeds will not become resistant,' said Rick Cole, now Monsanto’s technical lead of weed management, in a trade-journal advertisement at the time.
The study,9 published in 2007, was criticized by scientists for using plots so small that the chances of resistance developing were very low, no matter what the practice.
Glyphosate-resistant weeds have now been found in 18 countries worldwide, with significant impacts in Brazil, Australia, Argentina and Paraguay... And Monsanto has changed its stance on glyphosate use, now recommending that farmers use a mix of chemical products and ploughing. But the company stops short of acknowledging a role in creating the problem...
To offer farmers new weed-control strategies, Monsanto and other biotechnology companies, such as Dow AgroSciences, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, are developing new herbicide-resistant crops that work with different chemicals, which they expect to commercialize within a few years.”
What the author fails to mention is that some of these new herbicide-resistant crops are being designed to withstand chemicals that could be even more destructive, both environmentally and with regards to human health—especially in light of Samsel and Seneff's new research.
For example, Dow AgroSciences has developed a new generation of genetically modified (GM) crops -- soybeans, corn and cotton -- designed to resist a major ingredient in Agent Orange, the herbicide called 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D).
The use of 2,4-D is not new; it’s actually one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. What is new is that farmers will now “carpet bomb” staple food crops like soy and corn with this chemical at a previously unprecedented scale—just the way glyphosate has been indiscriminately applied as a result of Roundup Ready crops. In fact, if 2,4-D resistant crops receive approval and eventually come to replace Monsanto's failing Roundup-resistant crops as Dow intends, it is likely that billions of pounds will be needed, on top of the already insane levels of Roundup being used (1.6 billion lbs were used in 2007 in the US alone).
Gene Transfer Hazards, and the Latest 'Gene Silencing' Crops
Nature Magazine also discusses the spread of transgenes to wild crops. Mexico in particular has reported the spread of GE corn despite the fact that GE crops are not approved for commercial planting in Mexico. It is believed that the transgenes originated in corn imported from the US, and that local farmers may have planted some of the corn originally purchased for consumption, not realizing they were genetically engineered.
Cross-breeding between native and GE varieties may have allowed for the continued spread of transgenic DNA. Sadly, once present, it’s virtually impossible to get rid of these transgenes, which means that native species may eventually be eliminated entirely—a fate that cuts deep into the heart of the Mexican people, where corn is considered sacred.
Latest Breed of GE Crops Can Silence Your Genes... What Then?
Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has developed a type of genetically engineered (GE) wheat that may silence human genes, which could have truly disastrous health consequences.
Last year, University of Canterbury Professor Jack Heinemann released results from genetic research he conducted on the wheat, which unequivocally showed that molecules created in the wheat, intended to silence wheat genes to change its carbohydrate content, can match human genes and potentially silence them. Heinemann’s research revealed over 770 pages of potential matches between two genes in the GE wheat and the human genome. Over a dozen matches were “extensive and identical and sufficient to cause silencing in experimental systems,” he said.
Experts warned that eating this GE wheat could lead to significant changes in the way glucose and carbohydrates are stored in the human body, which could be potentially deadly for children and lead to serious illness in adults. Yet despite the seriousness of these findings, regulators are ignoring and dismissing such warnings. According to the Institute of Science in Society,10 the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has approved at least five such GE food products already.
Rather than using in vitro DNA modification (which is how Roundup Ready and Bt crops are created), this new breed of genetically engineered crops use a wholly different approach. In vitro DNA modification results in the creation of a new protein, but this new breed is designed to change their RNA content, thereby regulating gene expression within the plant. RNA is one of three major macromolecules, like DNA. Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) is responsible for regulating more than one-third of human genes. By engineering the plant to produce dsRNA, the plant can be “instructed” to silence specific genes—within itself, and potentially within your body...
A Global Experiment Based on Faulty Assumptions is Bound to Take its Toll...
It is assumed that both DNA and RNA are broken down in your gut when you consume them in GE food, which is why they both have GRAS status (Generally Regarded as Safe). However, experiments dating back to the early 1990’s have contradicted this assumption.11 According to Dr. Mae Wan-Ho12 (for references, see the original article):
“There have been many publications documenting the ability of DNA to survive digestion in the gut and to pass into the bloodstream whenever investigations were carried out with sufficiently sensitive detection methods. DsRNA in particular, is much more stable than single stranded RNA. DsRNA produced in genetically modified plants survive intact after passing through the gut of insects and worms feeding on the plants.
Also, oral exposure of insect pests to dsRNA was effective in inducing RNA interference. Worms can even absorb dsRNA suspended in liquid through their skin, and when taken in, the dsRNA can circulate throughout the body and alter gene expression in the animal. In some cases the dsRNA taken up is further multiplied or induces a secondary reaction resulting in more and different secondary dsRNA with unpredictable targets. Thus, not only are dsRNA mechanisms universal to all plants and animals, there is already experimental evidence that they can act across kingdoms.”
Dr. Mae Wan-Ho also points out research from China, which has demonstrated that dsRNAs can survive digestion and be taken up via the gastrointestinal tract, and that microRNA (miRNA) from food can circulate in the human blood stream and have the potential to turn off human genes.
“The data also indicated that some dsRNAs from plants are found more frequently than predicted from their level of expression in plants; in other words, there may be a selective retention or uptake of some miRNA molecules,” she writes.
Most Consumers Still Unaware of GMO Risks
The biotech industry, led by Monsanto, is increasing their propaganda efforts to reshape their public image, and sway your opinion against the need to label genetically engineered foods. As The Atlantic recently reported.13
“Given its opposition to the labeling of GM foods… it seems clear that Monsanto wants you to close your eyes, open your mouth, and swallow."
Indeed, many consumers are still in the dark about the very real risks that GE crops pose, both to the environment and human health. This is precisely what the biotech industry wants, even as increasing research demonstrates the many dangers associated with GE foods. For example, one recent study found that rats fed a type of genetically engineered corn that is prevalent in the US food supply for two years developed massive mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage, and other serious health problems. This was at dietary amounts of about 10 percent. Does 10 percent or more of your diet consist of genetically engineered ingredients? If processed foods form the basis of your diet, then you’re likely consuming FAR MORE genetically modified organisms (GMOs) than that...
Unfortunately, you can't know for sure how many items in your fridge and pantry might contain GMO since the US does not require genetically engineered foods to be labeled. With the emergence of “gene silencing” crops and the latest findings from Samsel and Seneff, the need for labeling couldn’t possibly be greater.
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.