By Dr. Mercola
Monsanto and other biotech companies claim genetically modified (GM) crops have no impact on the environment and are perfectly safe to eat.
Federal departments in charge of food safety in the US and Canada have not conducted tests to affirm this alleged “safety,” but rather have taken the industry-conducted research at face value, allowing millions of acres of GM crops to overtake farmland.
These foods, largely in the form of GM corn and soy (although there are other GM crops, too, like sugar beets, papaya and crookneck squash), can now be found in the majority of processed foods in the US.
In other words, if you eat processed foods, you’re already eating them… and these crops are already being freely planted in the environment. But what if it turns out that Monsanto was wrong, and the GM crops aren’t actually safe…
This is precisely what a number of scientists have been warning of for years, and the latest to sound the alarm is Dr. Mae-Wan Ho of the Institute for Science in Society, who has concluded that, by their very nature, there is no way GMOs (genetically modified organisms) can be safe.
The Greatest Danger of Genetic Modification
According to Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, genetic modification interferes fundamentally with the natural genetic modifications that organisms undergo in order to survive. Under natural circumstances, this is done in real time as “an exquisitely precise molecular dance of life.”
Genetic engineering, which assumes that one protein determines one particular trait, such as herbicide tolerance or insect resistance, and can easily be swapped out with another, with no other effects, is dangerously simplistic or, as Dr. Mae-Wan Ho says, “an illusion.”
An organism’s genome is not static but fluid, and its biological functions are interconnected with its environment and vice versa, such that trying to control genetic changes via artificial modification is a dangerous game. Dr. Ho explained:
“The rationale and impetus for genetic engineering and genetic modification is the ‘central dogma’ of molecular biology that assumes DNA (deoxyribose nucleic acid) carries all the instructions for making an organism.
Individual ‘genetic messages’ in DNA faithfully copied into RNA (ribosenucleic acid), is then translated into a protein via a genetic code; the protein determining a particular trait, such as herbicide tolerance, or insect resistance; one gene, one character. If it were really as simple as that, genetic modification would work perfectly. Unfortunately this simplistic picture is an illusion.
Instead of linear causal chains leading from DNA to RNA to protein and downstream biological functions, complex feed-forward and feed-back cycles interconnect organism and environment at all levels to mark and change RNA and DNA down the generations … Organisms work by intercommunication at every level, and not by control.
… In order to survive, the organism needs to engage in natural genetic modification in real time, an exquisitely precise molecular dance of life in which RNA and DNA respond to, and participate fully in ‘downstream’ biological functions.
That is why organisms and ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the crude, artificial GM RNA and DNA created by human genetic engineers. It is also why genetic modification can probably never be safe. More importantly, the human organism shapes its own development and evolutionary future; that is why we must take responsible action to ban all environmental releases of GMOs now.”
Natural Genetic Modification is Different From Artificial Genetic Modification
Similar to the way artificial immunity acquired by vaccination is assumed to be the same thing as natural immunity acquired by contracting and recovering from an illness, genetic modification is often thought to be the same, whether it’s done in a lab or by nature. But as we’ve seen with immunity, there are actually very important differences, and these, too, are highlighted by Dr. Ho. Compared with natural genetic modification, artificial genetic modification is inherently hazardous because it lacks the precision of the natural process, while enabling genes to be transferred between species that would never have been exchanged otherwise.
“There is, therefore, nothing natural about artificial genetic modification done in the lab,” Dr. Ho stated.
Contrasting natural and artificial genetic modification:1
|Natural Genetic Modification
||Artificial Genetic Modification
|Precisely negotiated by the organism as a whole
||Crude, imprecise, unpredictable uncontrollable
|Takes place at the right place & time without damaging the genome
||Forced into cells with no control over where & in what forms the artificial constructs land with much collateral damage to the genome
|Appropriate to the organism as a whole in relation to its environment
||Aggressive promoters force foreign genes to be expressed out of context
GM DNA Is Transferring to Humans and the Environment
Another problem with genetic modification has to do with the fact that GM 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 assume they can apply the principles of vertical inheritance to horizontal inheritance, but this assumption, too, is flawed, and now it’s been confirmed that GM genes can transfer to humans and the environment. Dr. Ho stated:
“It is now clear that horizontal transfer of GM DNA does happen, and very often. Evidence dating from the early 1990s indicates that ingested DNA in food and feed can indeed survive the digestive tract, and pass through the intestinal wall to enter the bloodstream. The digestive tract is a hotspot for horizontal gene transfer to and between bacteria and other microorganisms.
… Higher organisms including human beings are even more susceptible to horizontal gene transfer than bacteria, because unlike bacteria, which require sequence homology (similarity) for incorporation into the genome, higher organisms do not.
… What are the dangers of GM DNA from horizontal gene transfer? Horizontal transfer of DNA into the genome of cells per se is harmful, but there are extra dangers from the genes or genetic signals in the GM DNA, and also from the vector used in delivering the transgene(s). GM DNA jumping into genomes cause ‘insertion mutagenesis’ that can lead to cancer, or activate dormant viruses that cause diseases. GM DNA often contains antibiotic resistance genes that can spread to pathogenic bacteria and make infections untreatable · Horizontal transfer and recombination of GM DNA is a main route for creating new viruses & bacteria that cause diseases”
Another Potentially Devastating GM Impact… Loss of Bees?
For several years now, scientists have been struggling to determine why bee colonies across the world are disappearing, and one theory is that it's being caused by genetically modified crops—either as a result of the crops themselves or the pesticides and herbicides applied on them, such as the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. In one German study,2 when bees were released in a genetically modified rapeseed crop, then fed the pollen to younger bees, scientists discovered the bacteria in the guts of the young ones mirrored the same genetic traits as ones found in the GE crop, indicating that horizontal gene transfer had occurred.
If it is proven that GM crops are causing bee die-offs, it could turn out to be one of the worst GM effects yet. New research from Emory University researchers found that wildflowers produce one-third fewer seeds when even one bumblebee species is removed from the area.3 As bee die-offs continue, it’s clear that this could easily be one of the greatest threats to humans in the decades to come. The researchers concluded:
“Our results suggest that ongoing pollinator declines may have more serious negative implications for plant communities than is currently assumed.”
10 GM Myths That Monsanto Wants You to Believe
Monsanto is the world leader in GM crops, and their Web site would have you believe that they are the answer to world hunger. Thanks to their heavy PR campaign, if you’ve been primarily a reader of the mainstream press, you’ve probably been misled into thinking GM crops are, in fact, the greatest thing since sliced bread, that they provide better yields of equal or better quality food, pest and weed resistance, reduced reliance on pesticides, and more... But thankfully, the truth is unfolding and the tide is finally beginning to turn.
The Organic Prepper4 recently highlighted 10 GM myths that Monsanto wants you to believe … but which are actually far from the truth.
Myth #1: No one has ever proven that GMOs are harmful to people
The truth is that studies of GM food have shown tumors, premature death, organ failure, gastric lesions, liver damage, kidney damage, allergic reactions, and more.
Myth #2: GM crops are the only way to solve world hunger
The reality is that GM farming practices are not sustainable, which virtually guarantees future crop collapses and subsequent famine. Nor are farmers able to save their seeds due to patent infringement and poor fertility in the seeds. Sustainable agricultural practices are the answer to world hunger.
Myth #3: GM crops need less pesticide spraying
The truth is that after the first couple of years, the use of pesticides and herbicides on GM crops has increased dramatically.
Myth #4: GM technology is comparable to the cross-breeding that our ancestors did to create hardier versions of heritage crops
Cross pollination of different varieties of the same plant (what our ancestors did) is low-tech and can occur naturally. Genetic modification of seeds is done in a lab and often crosses different biological kingdoms, such as crossing a bacteria with a plant the unintended adverse effects of which may be incalculably large and impossible to ascertain before they are released into the biosphere.
Myth #5: If the FDA and the USDA allow them, they must be safe
Monsanto has close ties with the US government, such that, despite the obvious conflict of interest, Monsanto executives have been given policy-making positions in Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.
Myth #6: There is no nutritional difference between GM food and non-GM food
A 2012 nutritional analysis of GM versus non-GM corn showed shocking differences in nutritional content. Non-GM corn contains 437 times more calcium, 56 times more magnesium, and 7 times more manganese than GM corn. GM corn was also found to contain 13 ppm of glyphosate, a pesticide so toxic that it may be carcinogenic in the parts-per-trillion range, compared to zero in non-GM corn.
Myth #7: GMOs are impossible to avoid
GM ingredients are found in more than 70 percent of processed foods, but you can largely avoid them by avoiding these processed foods. By switching to whole foods like vegetables, fruits, grass-fed meats and other basic staples, you can control the GM foods in your diet.
Myth #8: Monsanto has our best interests in mind
Monsanto has spent over half a million dollars on hiring a firm to help ‘protect the Monsanto brand name’ from activists. There is speculation that they have placed trolls on anti-GM Web sites, hidden posts from social media, and even possibly hacked researchers computers days before they were set to release a damaging study. There’s even speculation that the US government is spying on anti-Monsanto activists.
Myth #9: GMOs are not harmful to the environment
On the Hawaiian island of Molokai, where a nearly 2,000-acre test facility for Monsanto sits, air and water quality are horrendous and there are reports of deaths, infertility, uncontrolled cross-pollination, bloody skin rashes, asthma and pesticide contamination in the groundwater.
Myth #10: GMOs are here to stay
Biotech wants you to believe that GM crops are here to stay, but a war is being waged against GMOs, and the resistance is gaining significant ground. By sharing information like this, we can fight back against biotech and the poisons they’re releasing into our environment.
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.