Genetic Engineers Explain Why Genetically Modified Food Is Dangerous

In the debate over genetically modified food, it often seems that one side is painted as pro-science (the GMO advocates), while the other side is portrayed as being scared of beneficial technology that could help us all.

But the lines aren’t so clearly drawn, as a new report from Earth Open Source suggests. The report, entitled “GMO Myths and Truths,” might seem like just another anti-GMO screed–until you see that it’s written by genetic engineers.

The authors include John Fagan, a former genetic engineer who gave back his National Institutes of Health grant money because of safety and ethical concerns (he now runs a GMO testing company); Michael Antoniou, the head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King’s College London School of Medicine in London; and Claire Robinson, research director of Earth Open Source.

What are these scientists worried about?

Genetic engineering is not, as proponents claim, an extension of natural plant breeding. While natural breeding takes place only between related kinds of life, genetic engineering happens in a lab, where tissue cultured plant cells undergo a GM gene insertion process that couldn’t happen in nature. This is not in and of itself a bad thing.
One of the problems, say the researchers, is that genetic engineering is imprecise and the results are unpredictable, with mutations changing the nutritional content of food, crop performance, and toxic effects, among other things. Every generation of GMO crops interacts with more organisms, creating more opportunities for unwanted side effects.
GMO technology is becoming more precise, but the authors contend that accidents will always happen and, in any case, plant biotechnologists don’t really know much at all about crop genomes–so inserting genes at a supposedly safe area could still lead to all sorts of side effects.
GMO crops can be toxic in three ways: The genetically modified gene itself (i.e. Bt toxin in insecticidal crops); mutagenic or gene regulatory effects created by the GMO transformation process; and toxic residues created by farming practices (i.e. from the Roundup herbicide used on GMO Roundup Ready crops).
GMO food regulation varies widely by country. In the U.S., the FDA doesn’t have a required GMO food safety assessment process–just a voluntary program for review of GMO foods before they go on the market (not all commercialized GMO food crops have done this).
Independent GMO crop risk research is hard to come by because, as the report explains, “independent research on GM crop risks is not supported financially–and because industry uses its patent-based control of GM crops to restrict independent research. Research that has been suppressed includes assessments of health and environmental safety and agronomic performance of GM crops.” A 2010 licensing agreement between Monsanto and USDA scientists should make it easier to conduct research–but the report explains that it’s still restrictive.
This report by no means ends the GMO crop debate–there is still much to be said for the crops’ potential usefulness, especially in developing countries that could use stronger, hardier versions of staple crops. But when genetic engineers are wringing their hands in a report like this, it’s wise to pay attention.

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Syngenta Charged for Covering up Livestock Deaths from GM Corn

Corporation faces criminal charges for concealing own study in which cows died after eating its genetically modified corn.

Biotech giant Syngenta has been criminally charged with denying knowledge that its genetically modified (GM) Bt corn kills livestock during a civil court case that ended in 2007 [1].

Syngenta’s Bt 176 corn variety expresses an insecticidal Bt toxin (Cry1Ab) derived from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and a gene conferring resistance to glufosinate herbicides. EU cultivation of Bt 176 was discontinued in 2007. Similar varieties however, including Bt 11 sweet corn are currently cultivated for human and animal consumption in the EU.

The charges follow a long struggle for justice by a German farmer whose dairy cattle suffered mysterious illnesses and deaths after eating Bt 176. They were grown on his farm as part of authorised field tests during 1997 to 2002. By 2000, his cows were fed exclusively on Bt 176, and soon illnesses started to emerge. He was paid 40 000 euros by Syngenta as partial compensation for 5 dead cows, decreased milk yields, and vet costs (see [2] Cows ate GM Maize and Died, SiS 21). During a civil lawsuit brought against the company by the farmer however, Syngenta refused to admit that its GM corn was the cause, claiming no knowledge of harm. The case was dismissed and Gloeckner remained thousands of euros in debt.

Gloeckner continued to lose cows and many more had to be put down due to serious illnesses, compelling him to stop using GM feed from 2002. He approached the Robert Koch Institute and Syngenta to conduct a full investigation. However, only one cow was ever analysed and the data are still unavailable to the public. Unsurprisingly, no causal relationship between the GM feed and deaths was determined; and there is still no explanation for the deaths.

But in 2009, the farmer learned of a feeding study allegedly commissioned by Syngenta in 1996 that resulted in four cows dying in two days. The trial was abruptly terminated. Now Gloeckner, along with a German group called Bündnis Aktion Gen-Klage and another farmer turned activist Urs Hans, have brought Syngenta to the criminal court to face charges of withholding knowledge of the US trial, which makes the company liable for the destruction of the farmer’s 65 cows. Syngenta is also charged with the deaths of cattle in the US trial and on Gloeckner’s farm, which should have been registered as “unexpected occurrences”. Most seriously, the German head of Syngenta Hans-Theo Jahmann, is charged for withholding knowledge of the US study from the judge and from Gloecker in the original civil court case.

Gloecker’s cows not alone

This is by no means the only account of mysterious deaths associated with Bt GM feed.

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Everything You HAVE TO KNOW About Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods

by Jeffrey M. Smith

View Jeffrey Smith’s powerhouse keynote to an audience of more than 1,000 and experience why so many say he is one of the best presenters they have ever seen.

Why This Talk Transforms

What is not shown is Jeffrey asking the audience at the beginning, “Please rate yourself from 1-100 how vigilant you are at avoiding genetically modified (GM) brands.” Using a show of hands by category, most audiences fall in the least vigilant range (1-20). But by the end of Jeffrey’s fast-paced multimedia presentation—EVERYTHING changes.

After the audience hears about:

The thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock, accompanied by unambiguous photos of severely damaged organs in animals fed GM food (e.g. testicles actually changed color),
How eating a GM corn chip might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories (it’s true), and
The heavy handed ways the industry covers up GM food dangers,

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