A number of scientists around the world have never been convinced that the benefits of genetically modified (GM) corm outweigh the risks as agricultural giant Monsanto has claimed. Now many of these scientists have joined environmental groups in questioning the use of GM corn. The latest from a study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences found that Monsanto's GM corn is linked to organ damage.
According to the study, which was summarized by Rady Ananda at Food Freedom, "Three varieties of Monsanto's GM corn - Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup herbicide-absorbing NK 603 - were approved for consumption by US, European and several other national food safety authorities."
“The gene flow risk that keeps me awake at night is the possibility of hybridization between crops engineered to manufacture poisons and related crops intended for human consumption,” says plant geneticist Norman Ellstrand. Indeed, this application of GM crops seeks to turn corn into cost-effective pharmaceutical factories and may bear the mark of unacceptable risk. It is currently the subject of intense debate. An open-pollinated crop, corn is known for its promiscuity--making it more prone to gene flow risks than other crops.
Monsanto gathered its own crude statistical data after conducting a 90-day study, even though chronic problems can rarely be found after 90 days, and concluded that the corn was safe for consumption. The stamp of approval may have been premature, however.
In the conclusion of the IJBS study, researchers wrote:
"Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity....These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown."
There are now hundreds of acres of GM crop field-tests planted. Several products have moved on to clinical trials.
Some fear that transgenic varieties of corn with a competitive advantage might gradually displace valuable genetic diversity. For these reasons, transgenic corn is prohibited in Mexico, home to over 100 unique varieties.
Despite the ban, transgenes have been found in Mexican corn. “We have in several instances confirmed that there are transgenes in landraces of maize in Oaxaca,” says Ariel Alvarez-Morales, plant geneticist at the Mexican Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) in Irapuato. The ramifications of this will not be known for some time.
Monsanto has immediately responded to the study, stating that the research is "based on faulty analytical methods and reasoning and do not call into question the safety findings for these products."
The IJBS study's author Gilles-Eric Seralini responded to the Monsanto statement on the blog, Food Freedom, "Our study contradicts Monsanto conclusions because Monsanto systematically neglects significant health effects in mammals that are different in males and females eating GMOs, or not proportional to the dose. This is a very serious mistake, dramatic for public health. This is the major conclusion revealed by our work, the only careful reanalysis of Monsanto crude statistical data."
One of the biggest concerns regarding crop plants is that they are engineered for herbicide tolerance and weeds will cross-breed, resulting in the transfer of the herbicide resistance genes from the crops into the weeds. These "superweeds" would then be herbicide tolerant as well. Other introduced genes may cross over into non-modified crops planted next to GM crops. The possibility of interbreeding is shown by the defense of farmers against lawsuits filed by Monsanto. The company has filed patent infringement lawsuits against farmers who may have harvested GM crops. Monsanto claims that the farmers obtained Monsanto-licensed GM seeds from an unknown source and did not pay royalties to Monsanto.
It is now known that unmodified crops are becoming cross-pollinated around the world by GM crops planted in fields up to several miles away.
Agricultural biotechnology is not here to stay. Many nations around the world are resisting GM technology and as genetic engineering continues to evolve, transgenic methods will likely become more dangerous and many more nations will accomodate bans in their respective farmlands. There will be a tipping point when all will realize that the risks do far outweigh any benefits.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.