GMOs Debate in Ghana: Science is not the only grounds on which GMOs should be judged (2).

 Raphael NyarkoteyObu

The uses of GMO’S

The Genetic modification has been generally used for many years in many industries such as Agriculture, Medicine and Bioremedation.

Agriculture

Plant crops, including both food and fiber harvests, have been subject to several types of genetic modification. Genetically modified seeds have been grown in the U.S. since 1996, with the trend towards using GMO seeds steadily increasing. According to the GMO Compass website, in 2009 more than 88 percent of U.S.-produced corn, soybean and cotton crops were genetically modified. Some of the benefits of the GMO use according to the supporters are:

  1. increased crop yields
  2. reduced costs for food or drug production reduced need for pesticides

iii.      enhanced nutrient composition and food quality

  1. resistance to pests and disease
  2. greater food security
  3. crops mature faster and tolerate aluminum, boron, salt, drought, frost, and other environmental stressors, allowing plants to grow in conditions where they might not otherwise flourish.

Medicine

Genetic modification has changed the medical field. According to the Institute for Traditional Medicine, one of the first applications of genetic modification was the creation a bacterial strain capable of producing human insulin. Insulin, the hormone lacking in people with diabetes, was previously isolated from pig pancreas. Recombinant insulin offers many advantages over pig insulin, such as:

  1. cost savings
  2. fewer allergic reactions

iii.      Putting an end to the practice of euthanizing pigs for their insulin.

Bioremediation

Bioremediation describes any process by which living organisms are used to clean up contaminated soil or water. Bioremediation generally uses microorganisms, small bacteria and yeasts, which ingest the contaminants in a given site and render them inert through the cells’ own metabolic processes. Although certainly advantageous, bioremediation has had limited use because the organisms must be able to survive, and indeed thrive, in a contaminated environment in order to do their work. The factors affecting their survival could include temperature, pH, oxygen levels and nutrients. Genetic modification makes it possible to engineer bacteria that will be robust within a given environment, by inserting genes that will ensure their survival.

THE DANGERS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS (GMOs)

Over the past few years, a number of countries have completely banned GMOs and the pesticides that go along with them, and they are doing so for a reason. The latest country to consider a complete ban is Russia after top government scientists recommended at least a 10 year ban.

The truth is, we don’t know enough about GMOs to deem them safe for human consumption. Believe it or not the very first commercial sale of them was only twenty years ago. There is no possible way that our health authorities can test all possible combinations on a large enough population, over a long enough period of time to be able to say with absolute certainty that they are harmless. There are a multitude of credible scientific studies that clearly demonstrate why GMOs should not be consumed, and more are emerging every year. There are also a number of scientists all around the world that oppose them.

“By slipping it into our food without our knowledge, without any indication that there are genetically modified organisms in our food, we are now unwittingly part of a massive experiment. The FDA has said that genetically modified organisms are not much different from regular food, so they’ll be treated in the same way. The problem is this, geneticists follow the inheritance of genes, what biotechnology allows us to do is to take this organism, and move it horizontally into a totally unrelated species. Now David Suzuki doesn’t normally mate with a carrot and exchange genes, what biotechnology allows us to do is to switch genes from one to the other without regard to the biological constraints. It’s very very bad science, we assume that the principals governing the inheritance of genes vertically, applies when you move genes laterally or horizontally. There’s absolutely no reason to make that conclusion – Geneticist David Suzuki If anybody ever tells you that we know with one hundred percent certainty that GMOs are totally safe to eat, they haven’t done their research. There is no reason GM foods should be approved safe for consumption, we just don’t know enough about them. We could easily feed the planet through organic, GMO free methods, there is absolutely no reason we need GM foods around.

 

The Studies:

Multiple Toxins From GMOs Detected In Maternal and Fetal Blood

Research from Canada (the first of its kind) has successfully identified the presence of pesticides -associated with genetically modified foods in maternal, fetal and non-pregnant women’s blood. They also found the presence of Monsanto’s Bt toxin. The study was published in the Journal Reproductive Toxicology in 2011 by Aziz Aris and Samuel Leblanc

“Given the potential toxicity of these environmental pollutants and the fragility of the fetus, more studies are needed, particularly those using the placental transfer approach. Thus, our present results will provide baseline data for future studies exploring a new area of research relating to nutrition, toxicology and reproduction in women. Today, obstetric-gynecological disorders that are associated with environmental chemicals are not known. Thus, knowing the actual concentration of genetically modified foods in humans constitutes a cornerstone in the advancement of research in this area.”

The study authors used blood samples from thirty pregnant women and thirty non-pregnant women. The study also pointed out that the fetus is considered to be highly susceptible to the adverse effects of xenobiotics (foreign chemical substance found within an organism that is not naturally produced.) This is why the study emphasizes that knowing more about GMOs is crucial, because environmental agents could disrupt the biological events that are required to ensure normal growth and development.

 

Increased Toxicity

The paper entitled “the safety of genetically modified foods produced through biotechnology” concludes that the responsibility of toxicologists is to assess whether foods derived through biotechnology are at least as safe as their conventional counterparts and to ascertain that any levels of additional risk are clearly defined. In achieving this goal, it is important to recognize that it is the food product itself, rather than the process through which it is made, that should be the focus of attention. In assessing safety, the use of the substantial equivalency concept provides guidance as to the nature of any new hazards.

Scientific analysis indicates that the process of BD food production is unlikely to lead to hazards of a different nature from those already familiar to toxicologists. The safety of current BD foods, compared with their conventional counterparts, can be assessed with reasonable certainty using established and accepted methods of analytical, nutritional, and toxicological research.

A significant limitation may occur in the future if transgenic technology results in more substantial and complex changes in a foodstuff. Methods have not yet been developed by which whole foods (as compared with single chemical components) can be fully evaluated for safety. Progress also needs to be made in developing definitive methods for the identification and characterization of protein allergens, and this is currently a major focus of research. Improved methods of profiling plant and microbial metabolites, proteins, and gene expression may be helpful in detecting unexpected changes in BD organisms and in establishing substantial equivalence.

The level of safety of current BD foods to consumers appears to be equivalent to that of traditional foods. Verified records of adverse health effects are absent, although the current passive reporting system would probably not detect minor or rare adverse effects, nor can it detect a moderate increase in common effects such as diarrhea. However, this is no guarantee that all future genetic modifications will have such apparently benign and predictable results. A continuing evolution of toxicological methodologies and regulatory strategies will be necessary to ensure that this level of safety is maintained. The paper was authored by Hollingworth et al 2003 and published in the Journal Toxicological Sciences.

 

DNA From Genetically Modified Crops Can Be Transferred Into Humans Who Eat Them

In a new study published in the peer reviewed Public Library of Science (PLOS), researchers emphasize that there is sufficient evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments carry complete genes that can enter into the human circulation system through an unknown mechanism.

In one of the blood samples the relative concentration of plant DNA is higher than the human DNA. The study was based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies. PLOS is an open access, well respected peer-reviewed scientific journal that covers primary research from disciplines within science and medicine. It’s great to see this study published in it, confirming what many have been suspected for years.

“Our bloodstream is considered to be an environment well separated from the outside world and the digestive tract. According to the standard paradigm large macromolecules consumed with food cannot pass directly to the circulatory system. During digestion proteins and DNA are thought to be degraded into small constituents, amino acids and nucleic acids, respectively, and then absorbed by a complex active process and distributed to various parts of the body through the circulation system. Here, based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies, we report evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments which are large enough to carry complete genes can avoid degradation and through an unknown mechanism enter the human circulation system. In one of the blood samples the relative concentration of plant DNA is higher than the human DNA. The plant DNA concentration shows a surprisingly precise log-normal distribution in the plasma samples while non-plasma (cord blood) control sample was found to be free of plant DNA.”

This still doesn’t mean that GMOs can enter into our cells, but given the fact GMOs have been linked to cancer (later in this article) it is safe to assume it is indeed a possibility. The bottom line is that we don’t know, and this study demonstrates another cause for concern.

Study Links GMO Food To Leukemia

A new study published in the Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases by Mezzomo et al in 2013 indicates that the biopesticides engineered into GM crops known as Bacillus Thuringensis (Bt) or Cry-toxins, may also contribute to blood abnormalities from anemia to hematological malignancies (blood cancers) such as leukemia.

A group of scientists from the Department of Genetics and Morphology, Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Brasilia, Brasilia/DF, Brazil set out to test the purported human and environmental biosafety of GM crops, looking particularly at the role that the Bt toxin found within virtually all GM food crops plays on non-target or non-insect animal species. The research was spurned by the Brazilian Collegiate Board of Directors of the National Sanitary Surveillance Agency (ANVISA), who advocated in 2005 for evaluations of toxicity and pathogenicity of microbiological control agents such as Bt, given that little is known about their toxicological potential in non-target organisms, including humans.

While Bacillus Thurigensis spore-crystals have been used since the late 1960’s in agriculture as a foliar insecticide, it was only after the advent of recombinant DNA biotechnology that these toxin-producing genes (known as delta endotoxins) were first inserted into the plants themselves and released into commercial production in the mid-90’s, making their presence in the US food supply and the bodies of exposed populations ubiquitous. What the new study revealed is that various binary combinations and doses of Bt toxins target mammalian cells, particularly the erythroid (red blood cell) lineage, resulting in white and red blood cell changes indicative of significant damage. Some of these adverse changes included anemia, and suppression of bone marrow proliferation and abnormal lymphocyte changes consistent with some types of leukemia. The researchers also found that one of the prevailing myths about the selective toxicity of Bt to insects, the target species, no longer holds true: It has been reported that Cry toxins exert their toxicity when activated at alkaline pH of the digestive tract of susceptible larvae, and, because the physiology of the mammalian digestive system does not allow their activation, and no known specific receptors in mammalian intestinal cells have been reported, the toxicity these MCAs to mammals would negligible.

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