The Damage GM Foods Can do to Your Body

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December 08, 2005 | 32,075 views

A project to develop genetically modified, pest-resistant peas has been abandoned after tests showed the peas cause lung damage in mice.

Protein Kills Pea Weevils

Field peas are susceptible to pea weevils, which lay their eggs on pea pods. The gene for a protein capable of killing pea weevil pests was transferred from the common bean to the peas. This protein does not normally cause allergic reactions in mice or people.

Structural Changes

But when the protein is expressed in the pea, its structure becomes subtly different from the original. Researchers say that this indicates a potential for unpredicted and unintended effects due to such structural changes. In this case, it was probably caused by differences in the ways that the two plants produce proteins.

Lung Damage

Trials showed that the GM peas were almost completely resistant to pea weevils. But mice injected with the protein showed a hypersensitive skin response, and those exposed to it in airborne form developed airway inflammation and lung damage. The effect was the same whether the protein was taken from raw peas or cooked peas.

In the early 1990s, a similar situation happened when researchers engineered a new strain of soy bean by adding a gene taken from brazil nuts. But that project ended when it was discovered that the hybrid was likely to trigger a major attack in people with brazil nut allergies.

For a long while, I've been warning you about the blight of genetically modified (GM) crops on our world's food supply, always concerned about their effect on your bodies and health. Now, we have another clue about their potential dangers.

Luckily, this study -- a rare glimpse into Frankenstein-like crop combinations gone bad -- was conducted by a national research organization. Had a private company like Monsanto been involved in this study, you would most likey have never heard a thing about it.

Chances are very good you've eaten GM foods: At least seven out of 10 items at your neighborhood grocery store contain them. That said, there's some steps you can take that will help you steer clear of them:

  • Reduce or Eliminate Processed Foods. Some 75 percent of processed foods contain GM ingredients. There are many reasons why processed foods are not optimal for your health -- for instance they often contain trans fat, acrylamide and little nutritional value -- so avoiding them will not only help you to cut back on the amount of GM foods you are consuming, but will also boost your health.
  • Read produce and food labels. GM soybeans and corn make up the largest portion of genetically modified crops. When looking at a product label, if any ingredients such as corn flour and meal, dextrin, starch, soy sauce, margarine, and tofu (to name a few) are listed, there's a good chance it has come from GM corn or soy, unless it's listed as organic.
  • Buy organic produce. Buying organic is currently the best way to ensure that your food has not been genetically modified. By definition, food that is certified organic must be free from all GM organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs.
  • Look at Produce Stickers. Those little stickers on fruit and vegetables contain different PLU codes depending on whether the fruit was conventionally grown, organically grown or genetically modified. The PLU code for conventionally grown fruit consists of four numbers, organically grown fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number nine, and GM fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number eight.

Finally, if you feel you can't afford to buy organic foods, please read Colleen Huber's excellent piece on how you can do so on your current budget.

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