- This article discusses the potential health risks of
genetically engineered foods (GMOs). It draws on some previously used material
because its importance bears repeating. It also cites three notable books
and highlights one in particular - Jeffrey Smith's "Genetic Roulette:
The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods." Detailed
information from the book is featured below.
- Genetically engineered foods saturate our diet today.
In the US alone, over 80% of all processed foods contain them. Others include
grains like rice, corn and wheat; legumes like soybeans and soy products;
vegetable oils, soft drinks; salad dressings; vegetables and fruits; dairy
products including eggs; meat, chicken, pork and other animal products;
and even infant formula plus a vast array of hidden additives and ingredients
in processed foods (like in tomato sauce, ice cream, margarine and peanut
butter). Consumers don't know what they're eating because labeling is prohibited,
yet the danger is clear. Independently conducted studies show the more
of these foods we eat, the greater the potential harm to our health.
- Today, consumers are kept in the dark and are part of
an uncontrolled, unregulated mass human experiment the results of which
are unknown. Yet, the risks are enormous, it will take years to learn them,
and when we finally know it'll be too late to reverse the damage if it's
proved conclusively that genetically engineered foods harm human health
as growing numbers of independent experts believe. Once GM seeds are introduced
to an area, the genie is out of the bottle for keeps. There is nothing
known to science today to reverse the contamination already spread over
two-thirds of arable US farmland and heading everywhere unless checked.
- This is happening in spite of the risk because of what
F. William Engdahl revealed in his powerfully important, well documented
book titled "Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation."
It's the diabolical story of how Washington and four Anglo-American agribusiness
giants plan world domination by patenting animal and vegetable life forms
to gain worldwide control of our food supply, make it all genetically engineered,
and use it as a weapon to reward friends and punish enemies.
- Today, consumers eat these foods daily without knowing
the potential health risks. In 2003, Jeffrey Smith explained them in his
book titled "Seeds of Deception." He revealed that efforts to
inform the public have been quashed, reliable science has been buried,
and consider what happened to two distinguished scientists - UC Berkeley's
Ignacio Chapela and former Scotland Rowett Research Institute researcher
and world's leading lectins and plant genetic modification expert, Arpad
Pusztai. They were vilified, hounded, and threatened for their research,
and in the case of Pusztai, fired from his job for doing it.
- He believed in the promise of GM foods, was commissioned
to study them, and conducted the first ever independent one on them anywhere.
Like other researchers since, he was shocked by his findings. Rats fed
GM potatoes had smaller livers, hearts, testicles and brains, damaged immune
systems, and showed structural changes in their white blood cells making
them more vulnerable to infection and disease compared to other rats fed
non-GMO potatoes. It got worse. Thymus and spleen damage showed up; enlarged
tissues, including the pancreas and intestines; and there were cases of
liver atrophy as well as significant proliferation of stomach and intestines
cells that could be a sign of greater future risk of cancer. Equally alarming,
results showed up after 10 days of testing, and they persisted after 110
days that's the human equivalent of 10 years.
- Later independent studies confirmed what Pusztai learned,
and Smith published information on them in his 2007 book called "Genetic
Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods."
The book is encyclopedic in depth, an invaluable comprehensive source,
and this article reviews some of the shocking data in it.
- Compelling Evidence of Potential GMO Harm
- In his introduction, Smith cites the US Food and Drug
Administration's (FDA) policy statement on GM food safety without a shred
of evidence to back it. It supported GHW Bush's Executive Order that GMOs
are "substantially equivalent" to ordinary seeds and crops and
need no government regulation. The agency said it was "not aware of
any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ
from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way." That single statement
meant no safety studies are needed and "Ultimately, it is the food
producer" that bears responsibility "for assuring safety."
As a consequence, foxes now guard our henhouse in a brave new dangerous
- FDA policy opened the floodgates, and Smith put it this
way: It "set the stage for the rapid deployment of the new technology,"
allowed the seed industry to become "consolidated, millions of acres
(to be) planted, hundreds of millions to be fed (these foods in spite of
nations and consumers objecting, and) laws to be passed (to assure it)."
The toll today is contaminated crops, billions of dollars lost, human health
harmed, and it turns out the FDA lied.
- The agency knew GM crops are "meaningfully different"
because their technical experts told them so. As a result, they recommended
long-term studies, including on humans, to test for possible allergies,
toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. Instead, politics trumped
science, the White House ordered the FDA to promote GM crops, and a former
Monsanto vice-president went to FDA to assure it.
- Today, the industry is unregulated, and when companies
say their foods are safe, their views are unquestioned. Further, Smith
noted that policy makers in other countries trust FDA and wrongly assume
their assessments are valid. They're disproved when independent studies
are matched against industry-run ones. The differences are startling. The
former report adverse affects while the latter claim the opposite. It's
no secret why. Agribusiness giants allow nothing to interfere with profits,
safety is off the table, and all negative information is quashed.
- As a result, their studies are substandard, adverse findings
are hidden, and they typically "fail to investigate the impacts of
GM food on gut function, liver function, kidney function, the immune system,
endocrine system, blood composition, allergic response, effects on the
unborn, the potential to cause cancer, or impacts on gut bacteria."
In addition, industry-funded studies creatively avoid finding problems
or conceal any uncovered. They cook the books by using older instead of
younger more sensitive animals, keep sample sizes too low for statistical
significance, dilute the GM component of feeds used, limit the duration
of feeding trials, ignore animal deaths and sickness, and engage in other
unscientific practices. It's to assure people never learn of the potential
harm from these foods, and Smith says they can do it because "They've
got 'bad science' down to a science."
- The real kinds show GMOs produce "massive changes
in the natural functioning of (a) plant's DNA. Native genes can be mutated,
deleted, permanently turned off or on....the inserted gene can become truncated,
fragmented, mixed with other genes, inverted or multiplied, and the GM
protein it produces may have unintended characteristics" that may
- GMOs also pose other health risks. When a transgene functions
in a new cell, it may produce different proteins than the ones intended.
They may be harmful, but there's no way to know without scientific testing.
Even if the protein is exactly the same, there are still problems. Consider
corn varieties engineered to produce a pesticidal protein called Bt-toxin.
Farmers use it in spray form, and companies falsely claim it's harmless
to humans. In fact, people exposed to the spray develop allergic-type symptoms,
mice ingesting Bt had powerful immune responses and abnormal and excessive
cell growth, and a growing number of human and livestock illnesses are
linked to Bt crops.
- Smith notes still another problem relating to inserted
genes. Assuming they're destroyed by our digestive system, as industry
claims, is false. In fact, they may move from food into gut bacteria or
internal organs, and consider the potential harm. If corn genes with Bt-toxin
get into gut bacteria, our intestinal flora may become pesticide factories.
There's been no research done to prove if it's true or false. Agribusiness
giants aren't looking, neither is FDA, consumers are left to play "Genetic
Roulette," and the few animal feeding studies done show the odds are
- Arpad Pusztai and other scientists were shocked at their
results of animals fed GM foods. His results were cited above. Other independent
studies showed stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs,
abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired
blood cell development, misshaped cell structures in the liver, pancreas
and testicles, altered gene expression and cell metabolism, liver and kidney
lesions, partially atrophied livers, inflamed kidneys, less developed organs,
reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased
death rates and higher offspring mortality as well.
- There's more. Two dozen farmers reported their pigs and
cows fed GM corn became sterile, 71 shepherds said 25% of their sheep fed
Bt cotton plants died, and other reports showed the same effects on cows,
chickens, water buffaloes and horses. After GM soy was introduced in the
UK, allergies from the product skyrocketed by 50%, and in the US in the
1980s, a GM food supplement killed dozens and left five to ten thousand
others sick or disabled.
- Today, Monsanto is the world's largest seed producer,
and Smith notes how the company deals with reports like these. In response
to the US Public Health Service concerning adverse reactions from its toxic
PCBs, the company claims its experience "has been singularly free
of difficulties." That's in spite of lawsuit-obtained records showing
"this was part of a cover-up and denial that lasted decades"
by a company with a long history of irresponsible behavior that includes
"extensive bribery, highjacking of regulatory agencies, suppressing
negative information about its products" and threatening journalists
and scientists who dare report them. The company long ago proved it can't
be trusted with protecting human health.
- In his book, "Seeds of Destruction," Engdahl
names four dominant agribusiness giants - Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Agrisciences
and Syngenta in Switzerland from the merger of the agriculture divisions
of Novartis and AstraZeneca. Smith calls these companies Ag biotech and
names a fifth - Germany-based Bayer CropScience AG (division of Bayer AG)
with its Environmental Science and BioScience headquarters in France.
- Their business is to do the impossible and practically
overnight - change the laws of nature and do them one better for profit.
So far they haven't independent because genetic engineering doesn't work
like natural breeding. It may or may not be a lot of things, but it isn't
sex, says Smith. Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist involved in human
gene therapy, explains that genetic modification "technically and
conceptually bears no resemblance to natural breeding." The reproduction
process works by both parents contributing thousands of genes to the offspring.
They, in turn, get sorted naturally, and plant breeders have successfully
worked this way for thousands of years.
- Genetic manipulation is different and so far fraught
with danger. It works by forcibly inserting a single gene from a species'
DNA into another unnaturally. Smith puts it this way: "A pig can mate
with a pig and a tomato can mate with a tomato. But this is no way that
a pig can mate with a tomato and vice versa." The process transfers
genes across natural barriers that "separated species over millions
of years of evolution" and managed to work. The biotech industry now
wants us to believe it can do nature one better, and that genetic engineering
is just an extension or superior alternative to natural breeding. It's
unproved, indefensible pseudoscience mumbo jumbo, and that's the problem.
- Biologist David Schubert explains that industry claims
are "not only scientifically incorrect but exceptionally deceptive....to
make the GE process sound similar to conventional plant breeding."
It a smoke screen to hide the fact that what happens in laboratories can't
duplicate nature, at least not up to now. Genetic engineering involves
combining genes that never before existed together, the process defies
natural breeding proved safe over thousands of years, and there's no way
to assure the result won't be a deadly unrecallable Andromeda Strain, no
longer the world of science fiction.
- The industry pooh-pooh's the suggestion of potential
harm, and unscientifically claims millions of people in the US and worldwide
have eaten GM food for a decade, and no one got sick. Smith's reply: How
can we know as "GM foods might already be contributing to serious
health problems, but since no one is monitoring for this, it could take
decades" to find out. By then, it will be too late and some industry
critics argue it already may be or dangerously close.
- Today, most existing diseases have no effective surveillance
systems in place. If GM foods create new ones, that potentially compounds
the problem manyfold. Consider HIV/AIDS. It went unnoticed for decades
and when identified, many thousands worldwide were infected or had died.
- Then there's the problem of linkage. In the US and many
countries, GM foods are unlabeled so it's impossible tracing illness and
diseases to specific substances ingested even if thousands of people are
affected. It can plausibly be blamed on anything, especially when governments
and regulatory agencies support industry claims of reliability and safety.
- It's rare that problems like the L-Tryptophan epidemic
of the late 1980s are identified, but when it was thousands were already
harmed. L-Tryptophan is a natural amino acid constituent of most proteins
and for years was produced by many companies including Showa Denko in Japan.
The company then got greedy, saw a way to increase profits from a product
designed to induce sleep naturally, and gene-spliced a bacterium into the
natural product to do it. The result was many dozens dead, over 1500 crippled,
and up to 10,000 afflicted with a blood disorder from a new incurable disease
called Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome or EMS.
- It's a painful, multi-system disease that causes permanent
scarring and fibrosis to nerve and muscle tissues, continuing inflammation,
and a permanent change in a person's immune system. It cost the company
two billion dollars to settle claims. Hundreds have since died, in all
likelihood from contracting EMS.
- This is the known toll from a single product. Consider
the potential harm with Ag biotech wanting all foods to be unlabeled GMOs
worldwide and governments unable to balk because WTO Agreement on Agriculture
(AoA) and Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules deny
them. They're also prevented under WTO's Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement
(SPS). It states that national laws banning GMO products are "unfair
trade practices" even when they endanger human health. Other WTO rules
also apply - called "Technical Barriers to Trade." They prohibit
GMO labeling so consumers don't know what they're eating and can't avoid
these potentially hazardous foods.
- The 1996 Biosafety Protocol was drafted to prevent this
problem, and it should be in place to do it. Public safety, however, was
ambushed by Washington, the FDA and the agribusiness lobby. It sabotaged
talks and insisted biosafety measures be subordinate to WTO trade rules
that apply regardless of other considerations, including public health
and safety. The path is thus cleared for the unrestricted spread of GMO
seeds and foods worldwide unless a way is found to stop it.
- Independent Animal Studies Showing GMO Harm
- Rats fed genetically engineered Calgene Flavr-Savr tomatoes
(developed to look fresh for weeks) for 28 days got bleeding stomachs (stomach
lesions) and seven died and were replaced in the study.
- Rats fed Monsanto 863 Bt corn for 90 days developed multiple
reactions typically found in response to allergies, infections, toxins,
diseases like cancer, anemia and blood pressure problems. Their blood cells,
livers and kidneys showed significant changes indicative of disease.
- Mice fed either GM potatoes engineered to produce Bt-
toxin or natural potatoes containing the toxin had intestinal damage. Both
varieties created abnormal and excessive cell growth in the lower intestine.
The equivalent human damage might cause incontinence or flu-like symptoms
and could be pre-cancerous. The study disproved the contention that digestion
destroys Bt-toxin and is not biologically active in mammals.
- Workers in India handling Bt cotton while picking, loading,
weighing and separating the fiber from seeds developed allergies. They
began with "mild to severe itching," then redness and swelling,
followed by skin eruptions. These symptoms affected their skin, eyes (got
red and swollen with excessive tearing) and upper respiratory tract causing
nasal discharge and sneezing. In some cases, hospitalization was required.
At one cotton gin factory, workers take antihistamines daily.
- Sheep grazing on Bt cotton developed "unusual systems"
before dying "mysteriously." Reports from four Indian villages
revealed 25% of them died within a week. Post mortems indicated a toxic
reaction. The study raises questions about cottonseed oil safety and human
health for people who eat meat from animals fed GM cotton. It's crucial
to understand that what animals eat, so do people.
- Nearly all 100 Filipinos living adjacent to a Bt corn
field became ill. Their symptoms appeared when the crop was producing airborne
pollen and was apparently inhaled. Doing it produced headaches, dizziness,
extreme stomach pain, vomiting, chest pains, fever, and allergies plus
respiratory, intestinal and skin reactions. Blood tests conducted on 39
victims showed an antibody response to Bt-toxin suggesting it was the cause.
Four other villages experienced the same problems that also resulted in
several animal deaths.
- Iowa farmers reported a conception rate drop of from
80% to 20% among sows (female pigs) fed GM corn. Most animals also had
false pregnancies, some delivered bags of water and others stopped menstruating.
Male pigs were also affected as well as cows and bulls. They became sterile
and all were fed GM corn.
- German farmer Gottfried Glockner grew GM corn and fed
it to his cows. Twelve subsequently died from the Bt 176 variety, and other
cows had to be destroyed due to a "mysterious" illness. The corn
plots were field trials for Ag biotech giant Syngenta that later took the
product off the market with no admission of fault.
- Mice fed Monsanto Roundup Ready soybeans developed significant
liver cell changes indicating a dramatic general metabolism increase. Symptoms
included irregularly shaped nuclei and nucleoli, and an increased number
of nuclear pores and other changes. It's thought this resulted from exposure
to a toxin, and most symptoms disappeared when Roundup Ready was removed
from the diet.
- Mice fed Roundup Ready had pancreas problems, heavier
livers and unexplained testicular cell changes. The Monsanto product also
produced cell metabolism changes in rabbit organs, and most offspring of
rats on this diet died within three weeks.
- The death rate for chickens fed GM Liberty Link corn
for 42 days doubled. They also experienced less weight gain, and their
food intake was erratic.
- In the mid-1990s, Australian scientists discovered that
GM peas generated an allergic-type inflammatory response in mice in contrast
to the natural protein that had no adverse effect. Commercialization of
the product was cancelled because of fear humans might have the same reaction.
- When given a choice, animals avoid GM foods. This was
learned by observing a flock of geese that annually visit an Illinois pond
and feed on soybeans from an adjacent farm. After half the acreage had
GM crops, the geese ate only from the non-GMO side. Another observation
showed 40 deer ate organic soybeans from one field but shunned the GMO
kind across the road. The same thing happened with GM corn.
- Inserting foreign or transgenes is called insertional
mutagenesis or insertion mutation. When done, it usually disrupts DNA at
the insertion site and affects gene functioning overall by scrambling,
deleting or relocating the genetic code near the insertion site.
- The process of creating a GM plant requires scientists
first to isolate and grow plant cells in the laboratory using a tissue
culture process. The problem is when it's done it can create hundreds or
thousands of DNA mutations throughout the genome. Changing a single base
pair may be harmful. However, widespread genome changes compound the potential
- Promoters are used in GM crops as switches to turn on
the foreign gene. When done, the process may accidently switch on other
natural plant genes permanently. The result may be to overproduce an allergen,
toxin, carcinogen, antinutrient, enzymes that stimulate or inhibit hormone
production, RNA that silences genes, or changes that affect fetal development.
They may also produce regulators that block other genes and/or switch on
a dormant virus that may cause great harm. In addition, evidence suggests
the promoter may create genetic instability and mutations that can result
in the breakup and recombination of the gene sequence.
- Plants naturally produce thousands of chemicals to enhance
health and protect against disease. However, changing plant protein may
alter these chemicals, increase plant toxins and/or reduce its phytonutrients.
For example, GM soybeans produce less cancer-fighting isoflavones. Overall,
studies show genetic modification produces unintended changes in nutrients,
toxins, allergens and small molecule metabolism products.
- To create a GM soybean with a more complete protein balance,
Pioneer Hi-Bred inserted a Brazil nut gene. By doing it, an allergenic
protein was introduced affecting people allergic to Brazil nuts. When tests
confirmed this, the project was cancelled. GM proteins in other crops like
corn and papaya may also be allergenic. The same problem exists for other
crops like Bt corn, and evidence shows allergies skyrocketed after GM crops
- Another study of Monsanto's high-lysine corn showed it
contained toxins and other potentially harmful substances that may retard
growth. If consumed in large amounts, it may also adversely affect human
health. In addition, when this product is cooked, it may produce toxins
associated with Alzheimer's, diabetes, allergies, kidney disease, cancer
and aging symptoms.
- Disease-resistant crops like zucchini, squash and Hawaiian
papaya may promote human viruses and other diseases, and eating these products
may suppress the body's natural defense against viral infections.
- Protein structural aspects in GM crops may be altered
in unforeseen ways. They may be misfolded or have added molecules. During
insertion, transgenes may become truncated, rearranged or interspersed
with other DNA pieces with unknown harmful effects. Transgenes may also
be unstable and spontaneously rearrange over time, again with unpredictable
consequences. In addition, they may create more than one protein from a
process called alternative splicing. Environmental factors, weather, natural
and man-made substances and genetic disposition of a plant further complicate
things and pose risks. They're introduced as well because genetic engineering
disrupts complex DNA relationships.
- Contrary to industry claims, studies show transgenes
aren't destroyed digestively in humans or animals. Foreign DNA can wander,
survive in the gastro-intestinal tract, and be transported by blood to
internal organs. This raises the risk that transgenes may transfer to gut
bacteria, proliferate over time, and get into cells DNA, possibly causing
chronic diseases. A single human feeding study confirmed that genes, in
fact, transferred from GM soy into the DNA gut bacteria of three of seven
- Antibiotic Resister Marker (ARM) genes are attached to
transgenes prior to insertion and allow cells to survive antibiotic applications.
If ARM genes transfer to pathogenic gut or mouth bacteria, they potentially
can cause antibiotic-resistant super-diseases. The proliferation of GM
crops increases the possibility. The CaMV promoter in nearly all GMOs can
also transfer and may switch on random genes or viruses that produce toxins,
allergens or carcinogens as well as create genetic instability.
- GM crops interact with their environment and are part
of a complex ecosystem that includes our food. These crops may increase
environmental and other toxins that may accumulate throughout the food
chain. Crops genetically engineered to be glufosinate (herbicide)resistant
may produce intestinal herbicide with known toxic effects. If transference
to gut bacteria occurs, greater problems may result.
- Repeated use of seeds like Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans
results in vicious new super-weeds that need far greater amounts of stronger
herbicides to combat. Their toxic residues remain in crops that humans
and animals then eat. Even small amounts of these toxins may be endocrine
disruptors that can affect human reproduction adversely. Evidence exists
that GM crops accumulate toxins or concentrate them in milk or animals
fed GM feed. Disease-resistant crops may also produce new plant viruses
that affect humans.
- All type GM foods, not just crops, carry these risks.
Milk, for example, from cows injected with Monsanto's bovine growth hormone
(rbGH), has much higher levels of the hormone IGF-1 that risks breast,
prostate, colon, lung and other cancers. The milk also has lower nutritional
value. GM food additives also pose health risks, and their use has proliferated
in processed foods.
- Potential harm to adults is magnified for children. Another
concern is that pregnant mothers eating GM foods may endanger their offspring
by harming normal fetal development and altering gene expression that's
then passed to future generations. Children are also more endangered than
adults, especially those drinking substantial amounts of rbGH-treated milk.
- The above information is largely drawn from Smith's "Genetic
Roulette." The data is startling and confirms a clear conclusion.
The proliferation of untested, unregulated GM foods in the span of a decade
is more a leap of faith than reliable science. Microbiologist Richard
Lacey captures the risk stating: "it is virtually impossible to even
conceive of a testing procedure to assess the health effects of (GM) foods
when introduced into the food chain, nor is there any valid nutritional
or public interest reason for their introduction." Other scientists
worldwide agree that GM foods entered the market long before science could
evaluate their safety and benefits. They want a halt to this dangerous
experiment that needs decades of rigorous research and testing before we
- Unchecked and unregulated, human health and safety are
at risk because once GMOs enter the food chain, the genie is out of the
bottle for keeps. Thankfully, resistance is growing worldwide, many millions
are opposed, but reversing the tide won't be easy. Washington and Ag biotech
are on a roll with big unstated aims - total control of our food, making
it all genetically engineered, and scheming to use it as a weapon to reward
friends and punish enemies.
- Smith is hopeful that people will prevail over profits.
Hopefully he's right because human health and safety must never be compromised.
Resistance already halted the introduction of new crop varieties, and Smith
believes that with enough momentum existing ones may end up withdrawn.
He cites an example he calls a "Shift away from GM foods in the United
States" in 2007. Leading it is an initiative launched last spring
to remove GM ingredients from the entire natural food sector. It's led
by a coalition of natural food products producers, distributors and retailers
along with the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT). It's called
the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, and its aims are big - to
educate consumers about GM food risks and promote healthy alternatives
through shopping guides.
- A Pew survey reported that 29% of Americans, representing
87 million people, strongly oppose these foods and believe they're unsafe.
That's a respectable start if backed up with efforts to avoid them, and
more information how is at ResponsibleTechnology.org. Jeffrey Smith founded
IRT in 2003 "to promote the responsible use of technology and stop
GM foods and crops through both grassroots and national strategies."
It seeks safe alternatives and aims to "ban the genetic engineering
of our food supply and all outdoor releases of (GM) organisms, at least
until (or unless scientific opinion) believes such products are safe and
appropriate based on independent and reliable data."
- IRT urges consumers to become educated about the risks,
mobilize to combat them and act in our mutual self-interest. It's beginning
to happen, and Smith believes "there is an excellent chance that food
manufacturers will abandon GM foods in the near future" if a public
groundswell demands it. He ends his book saying: "Although GMOs present
one of the greatest dangers, with informed, motivated people, it is one
of the easiest global issues to solve." Hopefully he's right.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays
from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions of world
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