Two recent studies would have us think so! But who, exactly, is behind the research?
Major studies just released claim that genetically modified (GM) foods—and the chemical used on them, glyphosate—are safe to eat. Following publication, there has been a steady drumbeat in the media essentially claiming that the case is now closed: GMOs are safe.
We say, “Not so fast.”
The National Research Council (NRC)—the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)—“examined epidemiological data on incidence of cancers and other human health problems over time,” and says there is no reason to be wary of genetically modified foods.
The NRC further suggests that genetic modification is no different than conventional breeding methods humans have been using for thousands of years to improve their crops. This is totally false—and there are good reasons to doubt the motives of the authors.
First, there are the conflicts of interest. More than half of the authors of the NRC report are involved in GMO development or promotion or have other ties to the biotech industry. It is shameful that the National Academy of Sciences cannot police this. Indeed, it seems too intimidated even to try.
Ties between the NRC and the biotech industry are far-reaching, and completely undermine the integrity of the group’s findings. The NRC and the NAS take millions of dollars from the biotech industry; invite representatives of companies like Monsanto to sit on boards overseeing the work of NRC; and draw scientific conclusions based on industry science.
The idea that GMO is similar to traditional plant breeding has no basis in reality. As we point out on our GMO Fact Check page, mixing genetic material from different organisms is not “natural,” e.g., salmon with antifreeze DNA (AquAdvantage™ Salmon), or tomatoes with fish genes (Flvr Savr™ tomatoes). Further, manipulating one or two genes does not just produce one or two desired traits—a single change at the level of DNA alters the entire DNA blueprint, often in unexpected and unwanted ways, which can be passed down over generations.
The report’s claims are even more extraordinary given the preponderance of independent, peer-reviewed research (that is, research not paid for by industry) demonstrating the dangers GMOs pose to human health:
- A 2009 study found that rats consuming Roundup Ready corn for ninety days developed deterioration of liver and kidney function.
- Another study found irregularities in the livers of rats fed a Roundup Ready soybean diet.
- Mice on a diet of Roundup Ready soybeans had impaired embryonic development.
- A study by Egyptian scientists on rats fed a GMO diet found a wide range of toxic effects including DNA damage, abnormal sperm, blood changes, and damage to the liver, kidney, and testes.
- Another Egyptian study found that a GM diet caused the death of spermatogonial cells in rats, and a Brazilian study found that Roundup causes infertility in rats.
- Famed professor Gilles-Eric Séralini republished a study showing that rats fed a diet of Roundup Ready corn developed mammary tumors, suffered severe liver and kidney damage, and had a higher incidence of premature death. This study had been bitterly attacked by industry, which forced its retraction by the first journal publishing it despite its methodological validity, as further evidenced by its republication in another respected journal.
- Another study by Professor Séralini demonstrated that GMO crops commercialized for animal feed were toxic to cows, causing partial paralysis, fatigue, kidney problems—and, in 10% of cases, death.
- Séralini also analyzed the industry studies supposedly proving the safety of GMOs when fed to mammals, and found much of the evidence wanting. Very few tests were for more than 90 days or on more than one generation of animal.
- GM potatoes were shown to damage the gastrointestinal tract in rats; GM peas were shown to cause allergic reactions in mice.
- A study that compared pigs fed GM feed over their lifetime to pigs fed non-GM feed found that those on the GMO diet had a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation. Another study comparing the effects of a GM diet versus a non-GM diet for Atlantic salmon also found higher incidence of inflammation in the fish that were fed GM soybeans.
- A study showed that long-term exposure to GM corn reduced the growth and fertility rates of water fleas.
- The heavy use of herbicides like Roundup and 2,4-D made possible by GMO crops also may be contributing to antibiotic resistance.
The list of evidence continues; much, much more—including the adverse effects of pesticides and herbicides used on GM crops—can be found here.
The NRC report additionally misleads by noting that some of the promises of GMO technology have been exaggerated such as increased crop yield. The fact is that decreased crop yields have been reported.
The report also fails to address the issues of “superweeds,” contamination of organic crops, biodiversity of plants and the wildlife they support, and the necessity of using increasing amounts of pesticides on GM crops.
Separately, a United Nations panel on pesticide residues has ruled that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup herbicide, is probably not carcinogenic. This contradicts the finding of the World Health Organization that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen.” In this same vein, the Environmental Protection Agency recently posted—and then quickly removed—a report that said glyphosate was likely not carcinogenic, as if the public was not supposed to see it.
The United Nation panel’s exoneration of glyphosate is also tainted by a $500,000 donation from Monsanto and a $528,000 from Croplife International, which appears to be a front group for Monsanto, Syngenta, and Dow, among other multinationals.
Glyphosate has been linked to the mysterious epidemics of kidney disease killing sugar cane workers in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. This doesn’t even take into account the damage being wrought on human health by the pesticides that are dumped on our crops—which is made possible by GMO technology.
In our recent coverage on the problem of pesticide exposure particularly in Hawaii, we noted how glyphosate may be causing birth defects at ten times the national rate. We also reported on a recent study that showed Roundup was many times more toxic to human cells than glyphosate alone, because of the toxicity of other ingredients, which have previously been falsely presented as “inert.”
Who is to be trusted when it comes to the dangers of GMOs—industry-supported science, or independent researchers?
Other articles in this week’s Pulse of Natural Health: