By Jeffrey M. Smith
If you're still eating genetically modified (GM) soybeans and you plan on having kids, a Brazilian study may make you think again about what you put in your mouth.
Female rats fed GM soy for 15 months showed significant changes in their uterus and reproductive cycle, compared to rats fed organic soy or those raised without soy.
Published in The Anatomical Record in 2009, this finding adds to the mounting body of evidence suggesting that GM foods contribute to reproductive disorders (see summary at end).
Unlike women whose menstrual cycle starts automatically at puberty, female rats need to be "inspired." Their (estrous) cycle conveniently kicks in only after being introduced to male rats. Since no males were present in this study, the females fed organic soy or no soy were appropriately untriggered (diestrus).
For some odd reason, however, those fed GM soy appeared to have their ovulation cycle in full gear.
Although the researchers did not perform a check on the estrous cycle directly, their microscopic analysis of ovaries and uterus tissue showed that the hormone-induced changes (i.e. early ovulation and formation of corpus luteum) were well underway. In addition, the lining of the uterus (endometriim) had more cells than normal and the glands were dilated.
In simpler terms, according to senior UK pathologist Stanley Ewen, something in the GM soy diet was "wrecking the ovary and endometrium" of the rats.
Hormonal Imbalance and Disease Risk
Dr. Ewen speculated on the significant hormonal changes in the rats and their implications for women who eat GM soy. He said that the proliferative growth (hyperplasia) of the (endometrial) cells lining the uterus implies changes in important reproductive hormones.
There might include excessive production of estrogen, follicle stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone, or even damage to the pituitary gland itself.
The presence of the corpus luteum, which is normally formed during the estrous cycle, means that the rats likely have higher amounts of progesterone. This hormone could increase the number of eggs released from the ovary, as well as increase their tendency to implant and be viable. If eating GM soy increased progesterone in women, this might improve their fertility.
On the other hand, if women also experienced similar changes in the uterus lining and altered hormonal levels, Dr. Ewen said it might increase the risk of retrograde menstruation, in which menstrual discharge travels backwards into the body rather than through the uterus.
This can cause a disease known as endometriosis, which may lead to infertility. The disorder can also produce pelvic and leg pain, gastrointestinal problems, chronic fatigue, and a wide variety of other symptoms. The cause is unknown.
Dr. Ewen also pointed out that the changes in the rats, if extrapolated to humans, might lead to abnormally heavy or longer menstrual periods (menorrhagia).
He was quick to point out that more studies are needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn, particularly because such a method of study, called histology, "is a static observation—only a snapshot." In addition, follow-up studies may be able to better rule out other variables.
In this study, an amino acid (cysteine) was added only to the organic soy diet but not the GMO (although even a cysteine-deficient diet would not explain the reproductive issues). Also, the soybeans used in both diets were purchased commercially. It is much better to use similar genetic varieties grown side by side in the same climatic conditions.
Unfortunately, Monsanto doesn't usually make the similar varieties (isolines) available for research.
The variable that Dr. Ewen wants looked at the most is the weed killer used on GM soybeans, as he mentioned over and over that it is a probable cause of the disruption.
Is Roundup Herbicide Causing us Reproductive Problems?
Genetically modified soybeans are called Roundup Ready. They are inserted with a bacterial gene, which allows the plants to survive a normally deadly dose of Roundup herbicide. Although the spray doesn't kill the plant, its active ingredient called glyphosate does accumulate in the beans themselves, which are consumed by rats, livestock, and humans.
There is so much glyphosate in GM soybeans, when they were introduced Europe had to increase their allowable residue levels by 200 fold.
Although there is only a handful of studies on the safety of GM soybeans, there is considerable evidence that glyphosate—especially in conjunction with the other ingredients in Roundup—wreaks havoc with the endocrine and reproductive systems.
"I think the concentration of glyphosate in the soybeans is the likely cause of the problem," says Ewen.
Glyphosate throws off the delicate hormonal balance that governs the whole reproductive cycle. "It's an endocrine buster," says Ewen, "that interferes with aromatase, which produces estrogen." Aromatase is required by luteal cells to produce hormones for the normal menstrual cycle, but it's those luteal cells that have shown considerable alterations in the rats fed GM soybeans.
Glyphosate is also toxic to the placenta, the organ that connects the mother to the fetus, providing nutrients and oxygen, and emptying waste products.
In a 2009 French study at the University of Caen, scientists discovered that glyphosate can kill the cells in the outer layer of the human placenta (the trophoblast membrane), which in turn can kill the placenta. The placenta cells are, in Ewen's words, "exquisitely sensitive to glyphosate." Only 1/500th the amount needed to kill weeds was able to kill the cells. The amount is so small, according to the study authors, the "residual levels to be expected, especially in food and feed derived from R[oundup] formulation-treated crops" could be enough to "cause cell damage and even [cell] death."
Furthermore, the effect of the toxin may bioaccumulate, growing worse with repeated consumption from Roundup laden foods.
Ewen says, "If the endocrine functions of the placenta are destroyed by glyphosate in the test tube, by extrapolation, ovarian and endometrial function would be expected to suffer." The implications for pregnant woman consuming glyphosate, he says, could be a miscarriage.
Indeed, in a Canadian epidemiological study, which looked at nearly 4000 pregnancies in 1,898 couples, women exposed to glyphosate during the three months before getting pregnant had a significantly higher risk of miscarriages, especially for those above 34 years of age.
Dr. Ewen regrets that he didn't follow up a referral by a local gynecologist about 20 years ago, who told him that women were having miscarriages when the fields next door were sprayed. He doesn't know what was sprayed.
Fathers Exposed to Glyphosate Also Increase Reproductive Risks
In the Canadian study above, even fathers who were exposed to glyphosate before their wives got pregnant showed an increase in early delivery and spontaneous abortions. In addition, a study of male rabbits showed that glyphosate can cause a reduction in sexual activity and sperm concentration, and an increase in dead or abnormal sperm.
Birth Defects Increased in Humans and Animals
Numerous indigenous people and peasant communities in Argentina have blamed aerial spraying of Roundup on a significant rise of birth defects. Dr. Andreas Carasco of the Embryology Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine in Buenos Aires, decided to investigate.
He exposed amphibian embryos to a tiny concentration of glyphosate (diluted 5000 fold). According to an excellent summary of glyphosate-related effects by the Pesticide Action Network:
"Effects included reduced head size, genetic alterations in the central nervous system, increased death of cells that help form the skull, deformed cartilage, eye defects, and undeveloped kidneys. Carrasco also stated that the glyphosate was not breaking down in the cells, but was accumulating.
The findings lend weight to claims that abnormally high levels of cancer, birth defects, neonatal mortality, lupus, kidney disease, and skin and respiratory problems in populations near Argentina's soybean fields may be linked to the aerial spraying of Roundup."
Although human embryos are not directly treated with glyphosate in the same way that Carrasco treated his amphibian embryos, it is known that glyphosate does cross the placenta and enters the fetal circulation.
In his article, Dr. Carrasco describes some disturbing findings in Argentina, where more than 50 million gallons of glyphosate-based herbicide is used on more than 45 million acres of GM soy.
In Argentina, an increase in the incidence of congenital malformations began to be reported in the last few years. In Co´rdoba, several cases of malformations together with repeated spontaneous abortions were detected in the village of Ituzaingo´, which is surrounded by GMO-based agriculture.
These findings were concentrated in families living a few meters from where the herbicides are regularly sprayed.
Glyphosate may also cause reproductive disorders in the offspring of those exposed. When pregnant rats, for example, were exposed to glyphosate, their male offspring suffered reduced sperm production, increased abnormal sperm, and decrease in testosterone, in puberty and/or adulthood.
Other Evidence of Reproductive Problems from GMOs
The changes in the rat uterus and ovulation cycle are by no means a smoking gun. But they are now part of a pattern of multiple reproductive disorders found in GMO feeding studies.
Professor Vyvyan Howard, a toxico-pathologist of the University of Ulster, says, "Several new hazards can now be identified." The growing body of research showing problems, he says, "provides ample evidence that the producers of GMO crops are not performing risk assessments for some of the hazards that independent scientists are identifying and testing."
Dr. Howard, who specializes in the effects of toxins on the fetus and infants, asks, "What will be the effect on the fetus in the womb of women eating these foods? This needs to be tested."
The few tests that have been done on animals are more than sobering. In April 2010, researchers at Russia's Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Association for Gene Security found that after feeding hamsters GM soy for two years over three generations, by the third generation most lost the ability to have babies.
They also suffered slower growth, a high mortality rate among the pups, and a high incidence of a rare phenomenon of hair growing inside their mouths.
When I reported the results of the hamster study, I included the following review of other GMO-related reports of reproductive disorders:
In 2005, Irina Ermakova, also with the Russian National Academy of Sciences, reported that more than half the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks. This was also five times higher than the 10% death rate of the non-GMO soy group. The babies in the GM group were also smaller (see photo) and could not reproduce.
In a telling coincidence, after Ermakova's feeding trials, her laboratory started feeding all the rats in the facility a commercial rat chow using GM soy. Within two months, the infant mortality facility-wide reached 55%.
When Ermakova fed male rats GM soy, their testicles changed from the normal pink to dark blue! Italian scientists similarly found changes in mice testes (PDF), including damaged young sperm cells. Furthermore, the DNA of embryos from parent mice fed GM soy functioned differently.
An Austrian government study published in November 2008 showed that the more GM corn was fed to mice, the fewer the babies they had (PDF), and the smaller the babies were.
Central Iowa Farmer Jerry Rosman also had trouble with pigs and cows becoming sterile. Some of his pigs even had false pregnancies or gave birth to bags of water. After months of investigations and testing, he finally traced the problem to GM corn feed.
Every time a newspaper, magazine, or TV show reported Jerry's problems, he would receive calls from more farmers complaining of livestock sterility on their farm, linked to GM corn.
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine accidentally discovered that rats raised on corncob bedding "neither breed nor exhibit reproductive behavior." Tests on the corn material revealed two compounds that stopped the sexual cycle in females "at concentrations approximately two-hundredfold lower than classical phytoestrogens."
One compound also curtailed male sexual behavior and both substances contributed to the growth of breast and prostate cancer cell cultures. Researchers found that the amount of the substances varied with GM corn varieties. The crushed corncob used at Baylor was likely shipped from central Iowa, near the farm of Jerry Rosman and others complaining of sterile livestock.
In Haryana, India, a team of investigating veterinarians report that buffalo consuming GM cottonseed suffer from infertility, as well as frequent abortions, premature deliveries, and prolapsed uteruses. Many adult and young buffalo have also died mysteriously.
Biotech advocates usually deny or try to discredit the evidence, and often attack scientists who discover it. But they rarely call for follow-up studies. With little or no money to follow up on these findings, we won't know for sure if GMOs are the cause, or if it is glyphosate, or something else. But numerous medical doctors aren't waiting for more research. They are telling their patients, especially those pregnant or planning to have kids, just say no to GMOs.
So if you were still eating GMOs before you read this, perhaps it's time to take the doctors' advice.
About the Author
International bestselling author and filmmaker Jeffrey Smith is the leading spokesperson on the health dangers of genetically modified (GM) foods.
His first book, Seeds of Deception, is the world's bestselling and #1 rated book on the topic. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, provides overwhelming evidence that GMOs are unsafe and should never have been introduced. Mr. Smith is the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, whose Campaign for Healthier Eating in America is designed to create the tipping point of consumer rejection of GMOs, forcing them out of our food supply.
Take Action Now by visiting http://truefoodnow.org/ and join the free network to receive updates on GM policy, as well as education to keep you on top of what is happening to your food supply.
Together we CAN get GMOs banned from the US. Europe was able to do it over a decade ago without any government assistance. All they did was educate the consumers, and that was enough pressure on the food industry to drop their ploys.
If we band together as an effective army we will be able to do this. Please understand that the VAST majority of people in the US do not want GM foods, so this is an EASY battle to win. All we have to do is a bit of organizational work.
So let me tell you how we are going to achieve the removal of GMOs in the US.
October is Non-GMO Month, and you'll receive a lot of important information about genetically engineered foods this week.
The Tipping Point is Near -- The Time to Join is NOW!
How many Americans do we need to convince to avoid eating genetically modified foods to achieve the same victory in the US?
We believe it's only about FIVE PERCENT of US shoppers!
So, changing the shopping habits of about 5.6 million households may be sufficient to eliminate GMOs in the US.
That is our goal!
We already have these numbers on our side. About 28 million Americans buy organic on a regular basis. Eighty-seven million Americans think GMOs are seriously unsafe. A hundred and fifty-nine million Americans, the majority, say they would avoid GMOs if labeled!
Unfortunately, no labeling is required, making your commitment to avoid GM foods all that more complicated. But that's where we come in.
How You Can Help Others to Avoid GMO Foods
Most people want to avoid GMO foods but it is virtually impossible to do so, since the government prevents GMO labeling.
However, Jeffery Smith has compiled a resource for you to avoid the government block of information. It is the free Non-GMO Shopping Guide. We realize that with the challenging economy it is very difficult for many to donate money to help this cause, so we are merely asking for your time and connections with your family and friends.
You can really help by making this message go viral. So if you are convinced that GMO foods should not be in the US, please send this information to everyone you know; post it on Facebook and Twitter…
You can also print out Non-GMO Shopping Guide, and give it to your friends and family.
If you feel more ambitious you can also order the Non-GMO Shopping Tips brochure in bulk, and bring them to the grocery stores in your area. Talk to the owner or manager and get permission to post them in their store.
Who Will You Share this Information With?
You can help nurture this consumer mindset by bringing information to your local natural food store owner, so that she can share it will all of her customers as well. IRT has created a complete Retailer Campaign Kit for this purpose.
You can also share information with your child's school, your health care providers, and food manufacturers. The IRT has created information kits for all of them, available here:
Please remember to share this with your friends and family, but do so lovingly. You don't want to make yourself a pest and risk your relationship with them. But believe me, this is a MUCH easier sell than getting them to stop smoking or eating less sugar since most do not want GMOs anyway, and it doesn't involve giving anything up.
You may even want to share this information with your church or religious leaders. As Jeffrey says,
"There are certain religious groups that think the genetic engineering process itself violates God's laws. So 'GMO' for them really means, 'God Move Over' and not 'Genetically Modified Organism.'"
Must-See Movies to Share!
The IRT has created a film called Hidden Dangers in Kid's Meals, which is a powerful way for parents to get an initiation into the health dangers. It's only 28 minutes long, which is ideal for local access TV.
You can simply bring the film to your local access TV station, and sometimes they'll play it 10, 20, or even 30 times because they're always looking for material and are open to support from the community.
There's also a video called Your Milk on Drugs - Just Say No!, which exposes the dangers of GM bovine growth hormones. Any parent still feeding their child milk from cows injected with rBGH needs to see this film! They'll never make the same mistake again…
Another powerful video you can share with your friends and family is Jeffrey's Everything You Have to Know About Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods lecture.
Your Action Plan
I've already mentioned a number of different ways for you to get actively involved during Non-GMO Month. To recap, and add a few more suggestions, here is a list of Action Item for you to pick and choose from:
- Distribute WIDELY the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. 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.
- Download the Non-GMO Shopping Tips brochure and keep it with you whenever you shop, or download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
You can also order the Non-GMO Shopping Tips brochure in bulk and give it to your family and friends.
- Urge food manufacturers to join the Non-GMO Project and become Non-GMO Project Verified. This is currently the only way for manufacturers to get around the fact that there's no GM-labeling system.
- Urge your local food retailers to join the Non-GMO Project's Supporting Retailer Program.
- If your budget allows support this urgent mission by generously donating to the Institute of Responsible Technology.
- Bring the film Hidden Dangers in Kid's Meals to your local access TV station, or perhaps your child's school, along with some educational material specifically designed for teachers and educators.
- Share Your Milk on Drugs - Just Say No!, and Jeffrey's lecture, Everything You Have to Know About Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods with everyone you know. Post them to your Facebook page, or email the links to your network of friends and family.
- Join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
Together, We Control the Future of Our Food
Please join us in this important campaign. Do as much or as little as you can. Maybe you can't make a donation to IRT, but you can distribute 20 Non-GMO shopping guides to your closest family and friends.
Plus, all orders placed through Mercola.com, starting October 6th, will receive a FREE, printed 16-page Non-GMO Shopping Guide.*
No purchase necessary. You may also download the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, for free, here.
Please, support this urgent mission by donating to the Institute of Responsible Technology, a non-profit organization.
Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can reach the tipping point and push GMOs out of our food supply.
*While supplies last.