Genetically Modified Crops and the global Food System
The problems – Part 2
10. Are GM products safe for animals and humans to consume?
I suspect by now you think nothing to do with this technology can be 100% safe, but that is what is needed. As you might imagine, this is a particularly difficult part of the subject to cover partly because the scientists need certainty before they make statements while the biotech companies and politicians make glib statements without any evidence, and partly because the evidence is a bit spread about. The Monsantos of the world make it so.
As an example, Owen Paterson (the UK Secretary of State for the Environment) said recently at the Oxford Farming Conference “We have all been eating GM for years without any ill effects. It is safe technology and we must encourage much wider growing of GM crops here in the UK as the yields are higher and it helps the environment, for example by reducing the use of pesticides”.
Each coloured part of his statement is incorrect and most provably so, though with the horse meat problems it must be expected that food companies have included GM in what they manufacture in the EU even though it isn’t on the labels. I was so incensed by his public pronouncements that I looked up his education – and found his degree was in History, which is about as far away from mathematics and the sciences as you can get. For me it is shocking that someone with such little technical knowledge could be appointed to such a position which rather belies David Cameron’s statement “We will have the greenest Government ever”. How is that possible if non-competent people are appointed to environmental positions?
I am not going to pussyfoot around with lots of caveats but say it as I conclude it to be from the evidence and the scientific logic. I am not trying to scare but to inform as well as I can.
Where to start?
There has been something troubling me for decades. In the 1950’s there didn’t seem to be any such thing as an allergy, or at least none that anybody seems to have been aware of. If there were any, they were at worst mild and very few and far between, so how could it be that in the first decade of the 21st century they are prevalent with people suffering allergies covering many food products? It is impossible for humans to have evolved these allergies in 5 decades (2 generations) as modern man has evolved over about 200,000 years, or 10,000 generations. Quite impossible, so something has caused us to become allergic, and that could only be as a result of a change in the environment. It might be the air we breathe, the water we drink or the food we eat, but it must be one or a combination of those. With GM crops there is inevitably yet another layer of environmental change being put upon us which absolutely must concern us.
The different formats or types of GM plants pose different health risks but because there is minimal research done it is difficult to pinpoint cause and effect. Overwhelmingly we have the two types of GM crops which work as follows:
Pest resistant crops denoted Bt:
This ‘modification’ makes every cell of every plant produce a toxic protein, so every cell is a pesticide. When anything eats any part of the plant – including the seed – it is eating pesticide! Terrific, as it kills the marauding bugs but now we have plants that are pesticides which we eat and feed to animals. We then eat the animals and animal products. Other insects like bees also feed on the crops.
The killing process for the bugs involves severe stomach problems (sorry about this but it is important for later) which make an insect’s stomach break open – and of course it dies instantly.
Herbicide resistant crops – modified for Roundup denoted RR:
GMRR crops have a gene or genes inserted in them to allow them to survive the nutrient deficiency caused by the glyphosate that kills the weeds. The entire plant therefore contains this or these additional genes which are consumed by whatever eats them – insect, animal or human. The biotech companies have always said these additional proteins are harmlessly broken down by the digestive system, but we will find they are not.
Since starting this research (and writing) I have learnt something else from meeting with Dr Michael Antoniou (a genetic scientist in King’s College London) which can affect GM plants and therefore the safety of consuming them. I explained earlier how the genes are ‘inserted’ into the DNA of the target plant, but not only is the process random but: any number of the inserted genes could have been inserted; they could have inserted themselves anywhere in the DNA, and during the process other proteins in the DNA can and will have part of their molecular structure ‘blown off’. This affects how that protein does or doesn’t work, so it is impossible for anybody to know how the new plant will behave or how safe it is. It’s DNA has been altered, and as it didn’t evolve, almost certainly the new ‘plant’ will grow with greater stress than an evolved plant.
Professor Seralini in Cannes University repeated Monsanto’s tests on rats but extended it from days to a full 3 years. He used the same rat species as Monsanto and otherwise replicated the corporate ‘test’ but his findings were and are amazingly different. 50% of the male rats and 70% of the female rats died earlier than in the comparative group, and the size of the tumours certainly shocked me but they also had liver and kidney damage – things that repeat with what is looking like monotonous regularity. The rats were fed 11% GMO maize in their diet (from the NK603RR variety of maize) and 1ppb of glyphosate in their water. You will find that the water supplied in America to the human population contains vastly more glyphosate than used in the test, and that is being consumed by every person in the US!
His report has created mayhem with some scientists rubbishing it, arguing it was badly flawed and incomplete, but before we take any notice of them we have to know who they are and how he did it.
My analysis of his work leaves me completely satisfied with it given he was restrained to replicate Monsanto’s original research. The degree of the antagonism shown him also suggests strongly he has it right! For example, Prof Maloney of Rothamsted Research said “it is badly flawed and misleading”. However, he is head of the UK’s main research centre trying to develop GM crops so has a totally vested interest and whose Dr Elaine Ingham is on record as saying “Don’t worry – GM is completely harmless to humans. There is no evidence of chronic Bt toxicity in dogs etc”. They are also the outfit responsible for the only GM testing going on in the UK near St Albans which is trialling GM wheat, for which they have stated “it is extremely unlikely the genes will transfer to wheat growing around the area”. Well, we know that is an absurd and scientifically incorrect claim.
The EFSA (European Food Standards Agency) is referred to, but having gone through their major report on GM I am left wondering on their scientific competence. The EU person seemingly responsible is no better qualified than Owen Paterson.
Infertility and Birth defects:
Problems in the reproductive system are also repeating with that same monotonous regularity with problems showing in both the male testes, the female ovaries and uterus, and spontaneous abortions in animals.
- In Argentina in the massive GM soy growing region human birth defects have shown a 470% increase. Otherwise known unscientifically as staggering.
- The testes in rats have changed colour from pink to blue and swollen.
- 3rd generation rats and hamsters were found to be infertile.
- Both the EU regulators and the pesticide industry knew as long ago as around 1990 that glyphosate causes birth defects but failed to tell the public.
- There is a huge increase in spontaneous abortions in bovine animals (cattle, buffaloes and the deer family). 20% of dairy cows fed on GM maize and soy were found to be aborting and in one herd that figure was 45% (450 out of 1000 animals).
- In South Africa, animals fed on GM crops have shown increases in infertility and early deaths.
- In Canada, 93% of the pregnant women tested were found to have the Bt toxin in their blood as did 80% of the unborn foetuses.
- If I recall it correctly, in 2011 a pig farmer called Borup Pedersen in Denmark also found his herd became ill and infertile, which he corrected by removing all GMO’s from their feed.
- Don Huber who has spent his life in the genetic science world has identified a “mystery organism in GM plants. A new organism in aborted animals found in high concentrations in RR maize and Soy which is proving to be the cause of the abortions – see later for more detail.
There is more but I hope this is sufficient to strongly suggest GM crops are an infertility problem.
There is a medical condition called ‘leaky gut syndrome’ which involves not fully digested food leaking from our guts to our bloodstream because our intestines have become perforated. Now you will know why I had to explain how the pesticide created by the Bt gene works. It breaks open the digestive system.
Literally, small particles of food cross from the gut to the bloodstream which means our blood finds a protein it doesn’t recognise. Foreign proteins in the bloodstream not available in nature cause the immune system to attack them, causing the body to become intolerant of, or allergic to, those proteins which could be in anything we have recently eaten.
The Bt maize pesticide protein has been found in the digestive tract of sheep showing it was not destroyed by the stomach as claimed by Monsanto. This means there can also be superbugs in the gut caused directly by the GM food.
In 2012 the EPA (US Environment Protection Agency) said an impact on humans of consuming GM is that “it does break open little pores in human cells”. However, the head of the EPA has just resigned as she has had continuous battles with the Republicans over the last 4 years.
Major organs, bodily systems and other illnesses:
There are problems with what I think is every major organ in the body, but the liver, kidneys, immune system, gastro-intestinal, diabetes, Alzheimer’s , autism, Parkinson’s, cirrhosis and even obesity are implicated.
Given glyphosate is heavily implicated in so many health problems in both animals and humans; the following information on the chemical is interesting:
- The USGS (US Geological Survey) found that between 60% and 100% of all rain, air and water samples across the US contained traces of glyphosate (Roundup).
- 12 grams per acre stops the plants taking up 80% to 90% of the nutrients, damaging the plants as their biology is restricted badly affecting any crop’s food value.
- Is potent at 1 part in 10 million.
- In early 1996 the EU limit for glyphosate was 0.1mg/kg, but that year, as GM was beginning to arrive in the market, they raised it to 20mg/kg – or by 200 times! The only reason? With the increasing use of Roundup, and with it being used on crops for human and animal consumption – no GM crop would be permissible at the 0.1mg/kg limit!
- Glyphosate in barley kills the yeast in the brewing process.
- The level of glyphosate allowed in the water in the US is 10,000 times what is considered the toxic level, and 5,000 times what is permitted in the EU!
- Organisms (includes us) with glyphosate in them get sicker quicker.
General health problems:
- The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has stated: All GMO research results are “very disturbing” and it cites GM as causal in infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, and cell signalling protein formation changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system’. Sorry for the technical terms but basically GMO’s are messing up our insides. Note the word they use “causal”.
- Glyphosate ‘chelates’ (makes unavailable) the nutrients, and inside us it does exactly the same thing. Even if we have sufficient of a nutrient inside us, if we have glyphosate in us as well – we aren’t getting the benefit of those nutrients and they are crucial for bodily health. For example we need manganese for the body to move calcium into our bone structure. Not enough manganese = weaker bone replacement. Halve the manganese our systems have access to and you halve the calcium we get. Wonderful thing is evolution. We evolved to be healthy with what we had naturally not what some of us are now taking in through our mouths.
- In the year 2000, maize intended for industrial use entered the human food chain. Accidents will always happen, but when profit can be made – even horse meat will be sold as beef.
- In Japan over 100 people died as a result of consuming a GM organism called L-trytophan. The Japanese biotech scientists developed an impure version! Nature doesn’t do that.
- Baby milk – nearly all infant formula contains soy and nearly all soy in the US is GM, so nearly all infant formula contains GM product. The following brands have these proportions of soy in them:
- Walmart – 66%
- Enfamil – 49%
- Gerber – 48%
- Similac – 42%
- Nestle and many other Brand manufacturers cannot use GM in their products in the EU but do in the US. Buy a branded biscuit for example in the US and it isn’t the same as the same product in the EU.
- Celiac disease has been linked to Canola RR (Rapeseed) in Canada
- In India the GM aubergine (eggplant) has been banned for human consumption
- The Canadian BMA has warned about health problems with consumption of GM.
- The EFSA (European Food Standards Agency) has just (Feb 2013) reported it has found a virus (Virus V1) in 54 of 86 approved GM plants “which could be poisonous to humans”. It was “missed” before. They are in soy and maize crops fed to animals from which we eat the meat, milk, cheese and eggs!!!!
- The Russians recently banned a variety of GM maize saying it seems to be shown to be toxic.
Professor Don Huber:
Don has a lifetime of experience in molecular biology and is a plant pathologist with a focus on nutrient deficiency in plants. His work in this area led him to discover a previously unknown ‘infectious agent’ constantly appearing in plants that have absorbed glyphosate. This ‘infectious agent’ is a pathogen linked seemingly strongly with RR GM crops.
Don wrote a private letter to Tom Vilsack – the US Secretary of State for Agriculture I referred to earlier – informing him of his findings and its potential implications. The letter explains how widely this ‘agent’ has spread down the food chain, appearing in animals fed on GM crops and products used in products consumed by humans. Don was particularly concerned as Monsanto’s Alfalfa RR was approaching approval for planting right across the US, and alfalfa is a legume (pea family) grown solely for animal feed. The idea animals were going to be feeding on this crop deeply concerned him.
Don also very strongly suggested a link between the ‘agent’ and a radical increase in spontaneous abortions in animal herds which in some cases have reached the 20% to 45% range – otherwise known unscientifically as ridiculous – as well as with two very serious plant diseases – Sudden Death Syndrome in Soy and Goss’s Wilt in Maize. He concludes with a horrifying statement particularly for those in the US: “’This’ deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure”.
Two things have happened:
- Tom Vilsack approved the Alfalfa RR a few weeks after receiving Don’s letter (I wonder why) and
- The letter has been leaked.
I have published the letter and an interview with Don about the problem as a PDF here. I strongly advise you to read it but you should understand his findings are not unique as far as the health of consuming GM crops is concerned.
As a further note, I was sent Don’s letter by an agronomist I hugely respect, but who signed his mail to me as “this is terrifying”.
Does and did Monsanto and the other biotech companies know of these issues:
For certain they knew:
- That glyphosate functions by chelating nutrients as that is how and why it works. They therefore knew the food value of the crops was much compromised, and that inside us it would do the same. They therefore knew the crops were a health hazard.
- That weeds would evolve through mutation to be unaffected by the herbicides – primarily so far glyphosate (Roundup) – but also 2,4D. They knew superweeds would take over but planned to produce new crops they could then sell us.
I have wondered how to deal with this very complex subject but have had a spark of ‘genius’. We will divide the conclusions into scientific and realistic personal answers:
First the scientific position:
Can it be claimed that GM crops are safe for human and animal consumption? This is easy. No.
Is there enough scientific evidence to suggest or argue that GM crops are not safe to be consumed? Yes there is. There is ample independent research and actual agricultural evidence to strongly suggest there are health hazards which may be severe.
From current genetic scientific knowledge, is it scientifically considered possible or probable that GM crops are a health hazard? Yes. My explanations of how the genetic modification is achieved and what that means for the function of the totality of the genes in the DNA answer this.
Are GM crops dangerous for animals and us to eat? We cannot yet say that.
Second, what is my personal opinion based on all the work and research I have done and on my knowledge of the molecular biology?
- Back in 1998 when I had done my original research I unequivocally concluded that GM agriculture was a very bad accident not waiting to happen – but happening. I was strongly wishing to call GM – Genetic Mutilation – and I now know that is what it is.
- My original views were primarily environmental as the expansion of superweeds, and the spread of the genes into families of plants grown as crops or wild plants, simply horrified me. It was so absolutely obvious (to me) that the environment would be severely damaged that I actually assumed the technology would be refused permission by all regulators. It is a measure of the scientific incompetence of the regulatory system and our political systems that they have been allowed at all, and we now have the problems some of us knew we would have.
- During my original research back in the late 1990’s I was less worried about the health problems partly because I didn’t understand the molecular process as I now do, and partly because I assumed there would be sufficient checks to make certain it was safe for living organisms to eat. I did become aware though of what seemed to have been an ‘accident’ in which a number of people seemed to have died in Mexico as a result of consuming GM product, but it had been hushed up with large amounts of money. But proving it was very difficult.
Now for my personal answers:
Can it be claimed that GM crops are safe for human and animal consumption? NO = NO.
Is there enough scientific evidence to suggest or argue that GM crops are not safe to be consumed? ABSOLUTELY AND UNQUESTIONABLY.
From current genetic scientific knowledge, is it scientifically considered possible or probable that GM crops are a health hazard? ABSOLUTELY – YES.
Are GM crops dangerous for animals and us to eat? WITH OVER A 90% PROBABILITY – YES (though defining the level of danger is impossible without further research). I WOULDN’T TOUCH THEM WITH A BARGE POLE BUT THEN I NEVER HAVE. I HAVE STUDIOUSLY AVOIDED GM SINCE MY ORIGINAL RESEARCH.
Sadly now understanding more about the epigenetics and the molecular biology it seems enormously likely that long after we have stopped consuming GM we will have GM proteins inside us, and we know these will continue down at least several generations.
As a hugely important observation, I don’t think any of the health issues in this Paper would be identified in 30 to 90 day research tests. This proves the existing research methodology is fatally flawed. Clearly Monsanto and the other biotech companies know this, so they are operating in a moral void where wealth is the objective and health ignored.
Food health & Safety in the US
Don Huber said in his letter to Tom Vilsack that he was concerned about the collapse of the US agricultural system, but that statement refers to the agricultural industry. However, the concern is that if or rather when people refuse to eat GM – what will happen to the agricultural wasteland left behind and the agricultural industry?
The problems for those living in the US are:
- No food product is labelled showing what does or doesn’t contain GM and how much it contains.
- It is estimated that 70% of all food products sold in the US contain GM, so for those who live the modern lifestyle – you are eating it. To try to avoid it you would have to buy no manufactured foods at all – no biscuits, pies, soups, pre-cooked meals, cereals, sauces, mayonnaise, packet products etc etc etc. Now add cheese, butter, meat, eggs, milk. Crisps and snacks, pate, vegetable cooking oils, take aways – the list is truly endless. Pretty much everything in a packet and a lot else as well.
- What can they consume? The only real option is to buy nothing but raw organic food, so absolutely everything has to be home cooked from scratch. I do this all the time anyway and have done so for years AND it isn’t difficult AND it is a very low cost option – but I don’t know anybody who lives and eats as I do. I have added sugar beet to my diet because it is highly nutritious and the farmers (bless them) get just 3p/kilo for it!
However even buying organic, Americans have a problem:
- Monsanto have been suing farmers growing crops around their GM plants because they say the genes will have transferred. Well, they will have, so even organic in the US cannot be guaranteed to be GM free, and as another example the EU has refused to buy Canadian honey because it cannot be claimed to be GM free due to GM canola (rape in the EU). See what I mean.
- Let’s ignore the above fact – as a health issue it is impossible to avoid glyphosate even with organic produce as it drifts in the wind (it is anyway in the air and rainwater) so all crops grown anywhere in the US cannot be guaranteed to be glyphosate free.
- On top of this they are taking in glyphosate in their water and breathing it in the air.
The legacy for the American population could be grave indeed as with future generations also affected, they may be in a mess. Don’t forget, the FDA scientists said these foods shouldn’t have been on the market 20 years ago and they are just reaching the 20th anniversary of the start of human consumption but in the early days output was nominal. Several years ago it was said that 99% of those in the US “had serious nutritional deficiencies”. Obesity? I understand 3 of Monsanto’s chemists analysing 1gf1 refused afterwards to drink anything but organic milk with one buying his own cow.
I personally wouldn’t want to consume food in America for one month let alone continuously. The US population is part of the biggest uncontrolled experiment ever seen on planet earth, with the truly dreadful realities that they are not aware of it and there can be no scientific results and conclusions as it isn’t being measured.
The truth will eventually out and then there will be chaos as most foodstuffs in the US will be deemed hazardous. Knowing the Americans, they will want to buy food grown elsewhere in the world so will be trying to buy from the EU etc – so long as our regulators haven’t been duped which they already have in the UK by Rothampsted with their wheat. What then happens to the price of food when American food production is removed from the global supply? I’ll tell you. The poor and impoverished around the world will die.
Is it only the US? Sadly no as Brazil and much of South America has relished GM and China is now doing so particularly with GM cotton which is becoming another disaster area. Money always supersedes the health of others.
The UK Secretary of State for the Environment
It astonishes me that someone so almost perfectly unqualified to deal with such scientifically complex issues – has been appointed to do so. He seems to be floundering, but unless he already understood everything I have written in these Papers, and in the ones still to come – frankly he is unqualified to say anything. I have a maxim: “Those who know a lot know how little they know. Those who know little think they know a lot”.
But he would also have to understand the molecular biology involved as without that he would also be unqualified even to take a view let alone preach on the subject. I will try to publish a Paper as a ‘layman’s guide to the molecular science’.
We have to understand, more fool us if we don’t, that we don’t live in real democracies and our Governments work in hand with the Corporations. Just as the US will be shown to have damaged the entire planet due to its refusal to take any action on Climate Change so far, so it will not want to damage any of its major Corporations which are more important to the government than the health of its people.